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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

Leland Snow, founder and President of Air Tractor, Inc., and the inventor of modern aerial spray aircraft, died Sunday morning, February 20, 2011 while jogging near his home. He was 80 years old.

During Mr. Leland’s 50+ years in ag-aviation, he witnessed many changes particular to ag-planes. His first design of an ag-plane had the pilot in an open cockpit seated directly behind the radial engine with the hopper behind the pilot. How different things are today with the pilot sitting behind the hopper in an air-conditioned cockpit with seat belt airbags surrounded by the safest structure possible, high-tech guided GPS, sophisticated application equipment and powered by a PT6A turboprop engine. Air Tractor produces a line of aircraft that includes 400, 500, 600 and 800-gallon capacity planes powered by Pratt & Whitney piston or turbine engines.

In July 2008 Leland Snow transferred ownership of Air Tractor, Inc. to its employees through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. That same year Snow published an autobiography of his career in aviation, Putting Dreams to Flight. Snow was an avid runner, and competed in three marathons, including competing twice in the New York marathon. It was a common sight to see him running the streets of his Wichita Falls neighborhood.

The ag-aviation industry worldwide will miss and memorialize Leland Snow. Just how much of the aeronautical improvements the industry enjoys due to his efforts are unknown. Even at 80 years old, he never stopped working toward making the Air Tractor the best ag-plane that it could possibly be. He pushed the limits of our imagination with ever increasing hopper sizes, airframe improvements and more powerful engines, to even expanding into the military marketplace with the AT-802U.

In 2010, Air Tractor delivered the 2,500th aircraft to an aerial spraying operator in Brazil. In 2010, Air Tractor produced 123 aircraft and its international sales accounted for more than 50 percent of its business.

A memorial service will be held 2 P.M. Saturday, February 26th at Air Tractor in Olney, Texas.

Memorial donations may be made to the Professional Aerial Applicators Support System (PAASS), which is a safety program for pilots sponsored by the National Agricultural Aviation Association (www.agaviation.org). Make checks payable to NAAREF (National Agricultural Aviation Research & Education Foundation) and mail to: NAAA, 1005 E Street SE, Washington, DC 2003-2847.

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