Employee-owners at aircraft manufacturer Air Tractor, Inc. celebrate the delivery of their 4,000th aircraft.
An Air Tractor 502XP single-seat agricultural aircraft has been delivered to its new owner during a send-off ceremony attended by employees of the manufacturer and local dignitaries. It is the 4,000th airplane Air Tractor has produced since it began operations in 1972.
"After 49 years of continuous production of airplanes, all of us here are really pleased to celebrate this moment," says Jim Hirsch, Air Tractor president. "Only eight years ago we built our 3,000th airplane; now we just surpassed number 4,000. This year we find ourselves in the fortunate position to have historically strong demand for our aircraft. While we are subject to agricultural market ups and downs, our manufacturing continues year after year on a rising trend line."
In this West Texas town of 3,100, Air Tractor employs close to 300 skilled workers, engineers and support personnel, many of whom are second and third generation employee-owners. The airplanes they produce are the most popular of their kind in the world.
The company was founded by Leland Snow, an agricultural pilot, aeronautical engineer and entrepreneur. Before his death in 2011, Snow established an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) providing employees 100 percent beneficial ownership and retirement benefits for their service to the company.
"He felt the ESOP would bring added strength, security and long-term benefits for the company, employees and the community," recalls Hirsch. Following the ESOP's inception, employees have taken larger roles in elevating quality standards and productivity, Hirsch notes. "The delivery of the 4,000th Air Tractor reflects our employee-owners' craftsmanship, pride and commitment to Mr Snow's vision of quality and innovation."
Mike Rivenbark, owner of Moore's Aerial Applicators, placed his order for the Air Tractor 502XP in late 2020. Once back at his base of operations in Morehead City, North Carolina, Rivenbark will use the aircraft to spray crop protection products on farm fields of blueberries, corn, beans and vegetables.
Hirsch remarked that Air Tractor has come a long way since its early days, when in 1975 the company celebrated its annual production of 25 aircraft. "Today, we produce more ag airplanes, and offer more model choices than all our competitors combined. When the world demands more, Air Tractor delivers. That is as true today as it was back in the 1970s."
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|Air Tractor AT-502|