Jim Hirsch has been named president of Air Tractor, following the death Feb. 20 of Air Tractor founder and president Leland Snow. Board member Kristin Edwards noted, “This decision is in keeping with comments that Leland Snow made as recently as few days before his passing.”
Hirsch has been an engineer at Air Tractor for 19 years and most recently served as Vice President, Engineering at the company, which manufactures a line of radial engine and turboprop aircraft that are used around the world for agricultural spraying and aerial firefighting.
Hirsch will oversee the new product initiatives begun by Leland Snow, direct product engineering and work with the management team on strategic planning efforts. “On a personal level, it’s a deeply sad time,” says Hirsch. “There is no doubt that we will all miss Leland very much. He was a great man and a driven, focused, and hard-working leader. Leland made my transition so much easier because he had a well thought-out plan for Air Tractor, and left this company in a great position to go forward and continue producing the finest ag and firefighting aircraft in the world.”
“Leland knew that he wouldn’t be around forever, and he wanted to see Air Tractor continue to be the strong and successful company that it has become,” echoes wife and Air Tractor Board Member Nancy Snow. “So, years ago he began delegating more responsibilities and building a management team, allowing each person’s strengths to help guide the decisions and direction of the company. He relied on the experience and knowledge of Air Tractor’s Group Leaders to keep things running smoothly in the plant and make sure that we could build more and more airplanes.”
Other than the appointment of Hirsch as President, the remainder of the Air Tractor management team remains in place, according to Kristin Edwards. The management team includes Leon Clinton, Vice President Machining Operations, Kristin Edwards, Vice President Sales and Marketing; David Ickert, Vice President Finance; and Rick Turner, Vice President Operations. Edwards said, “Since I became a mother in 2008, I’ve become less visible at the factory, but I’m continuing to work from home and plan to remain an active part of Air Tractor’s future.”
In 2010, Air Tractor produced 123 aircraft and its international sales accounted for more than 50% of its business.
“We are so blessed that Leland’s legacy is this strong and vibrant company which has benefitted so many people around the world,” remarked Air Tractor Board Member Kara East. “Dad showed his confidence in every employee by making Air Tractor an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan), because he knew that the motivation of ownership and benefits of having a profitable company would inspire all of us to work harder for the company’s success.” She added, “We also felt comfortable appointing Jim as President because he has good working relationships with the many different groups of people in the industry — employees, Group Leaders, Air Tractor dealers, customers, and the FAA.”
Hirsch says the company is returning to business as usual. “Thanks to Leland’s planning, the support of the Snow family, as well as the heart and commitment of all the employees here at Air Tractor, the company today moves forward without skipping a beat. That’s testament to just how much Leland cared about his employees, business associates and customers,” adds Hirsch.
For more information: AirTractor.com