On track to build 165+ aircraft in 2021, Air Tractor is ready for an even stronger 2022.
Air Tractor is set to produce more than 165 aircraft in 2021 — a 40 percent increase from 2020. This is a remarkable accomplishment in a year in which the production sector at large was plagued by supply chain challenges and Covid-related production delays.
“Even in a very challenging environment with Covid-19 and serious worldwide supply chain problems, we’ve met the challenge and continue to meet it and do more as shown by our 40 percent increase in airplane production during 2021,” said Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch.
“Nobody else in aviation has done that in the past year. No U.S. airplane manufacturer has increased production over the previous year,” Hirsch added. “We’re fortunate to be in a market that has such a high demand and has opportunities.”
Hirsch explained that Air Tractor accomplished the production increase on top of additional, independent projects. “Even though we’ve got a demand signal for the 802U, and we’re in the middle of planning to build some airplanes for the military market, what we’ve really done is focus on ag and firefighting—our core business—and made sure we’ve done everything we can to meet that demand first,” he said.
With aerial application still being the most efficient way to protect crops, and Air Tractor’s firefighting series of aircraft continuously proving their effectiveness in fire prevention and initial attack firefighting scenarios, the demand for purpose-built airplanes to get the job done is growing worldwide.
“The demand is unbelievable for next year,” Hirsch said. “Air Tractor dealers have sold everything we could build this year. And if the global supply chain holds up, we’ve got a robust 2022 build schedule.”
Meanwhile, the company continues making their aircraft even more productive and dependable.
For the past several years, Air Tractor has put strong focus on making the best possible use of its resources in order to improve competitiveness. The goals are to eliminate waste and find new manufacturing efficiencies, improving processes and techniques for each step involved in building airplanes. “Production, engineering, quality, and computer systems departments are collaborating to make sure we are delivering the best quality product efficiently. All of us are working on this to ensure that we stay on solid ground during these disruptive, changing times,” says Hirsch.
The effort involves continuous improvement, striving for simplicity, eliminating time-wasting activities, and increasing the company’s manufacturing flexibility to streamline the flow of raw materials and subassemblies through the factory. “By more effectively utilizing our available resources, we will be able to increase our production and control the cost of production while building better quality products.” Hirsch says.
Air Tractor is stronger than ever, Hirsch underscored as the company celebrated delivering its 4,000th aircraft this year, along with several other milestones, including well over 100 502XP aircraft built, and the delivery of the 900th AT-802 in the ag and firefighting series. Air Tractor currently has about 330 employees to meet customer demands for more aircraft.
“We’ve gone a long way through this Covid storm, and the company still is strong and viable —perhaps more so than ever. We’re going into 2022 strong, healthy, and we’re more than just forging ahead. We’re rocketing ahead,” Hirsch said.