By most accounts it's fair to say that Air Tractor founder Leland Snow did more to advance the ag aviation industry than any other single individual. To examine the career of this extraordinary man is to trace the development and advancement of the modern spray plane.
Leland Snow began designing his first ag airplane, the S-1, in 1951. The 23-year old Snow completed test flights with the S-1 in 1953. Snow’s S-1 flew dusting and spraying jobs in the Texas Rio Grande Valley and in Nicaragua until 1957. He followed-up the S-1 with the models S-2A and S-2B, which were built when Snow moved to production facilities in Olney, Texas in 1958 and began building airplanes as The Snow Aeronautical Company.
In 1965, Leland Snow sold his company to Rockwell-Standard and was appointed a Vice President of the Aero Commander division. During this time, the Model S-2R was developed and named the Thrush. The first 100 Thrush aircraft were built at the Olney Division before the plant was closed and Thrush production moved to Georgia in 1970. More than 500 aircraft were produced under Snow Aeronautical Corporation and Rockwell-Standard in Olney.
Snow resigned from Rockwell in 1970 and devoted the following two years designing the first Air Tractor. Construction began in 1972 on the Air Tractor AT-300, which later became the AT-301. Air Tractor’s first turbine model, the AT-302, was introduced in 1977.
The Air Tractor combined all that Snow had learned about aircraft design and ag spraying. It was the right aircraft, introduced at the right time. And in no time at all, ag pilots were lining up to buy an Air Tractor for their operation. You might say the company's business took off... and sixteen short years later, Air Tractor delivered its 1,100th airplane and began expanding the Olney plant for increased capacity. Less than five years later, the 2,000th Snow-designed, Olney-built aircraft rolled out the factory doors.
On February 20, 2011, at age 80, Leland Snow passed away while jogging near his home in Wichita Falls Texas. On his desk at home were his plans and notes for the next day's engineering meeting. Perhaps surprisingly though, work was not everything to him. Snow is remembered as a quiet, generous and kind-natured family man whose focus and determination built one of the world's leading aircraft manufacturing companies. And yet for all his many accomplishments and busy schedule, Leland Snow always would make time to visit with ag pilots who dropped by to see him at his office or at National Agricultural Aviation Association meetings. His commitment to pilot safety and drift minimization programs helped to improve public image of our industry.
Today, some 3,000 aircraft later, Air Tractor produces the most extensive line of ag aircraft with 400, 500, 600, 800 and 1,000-gallon capacities and powered by reliable Pratt & Whitney piston or turbine engines. There's an Air Tractor sized right for your aerial spraying operation. And when you've grown your business and are ready to trade up to a larger Air Tractor, you'll find your Air Tractor dealer a helpful resource for your next purchase.
Air Tractor aircraft can be found working over fields and forests across the United States and around the globe -- in Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Eastern Europe, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. As was Leland Snow's dream, Air Tractor is truly the world's ag plane. One can be yours for your corner of the world, too.