Air Tractor taking innovative step with new e-coat system

Air Tractor taking innovative step with new e-coat system
Air Tractor E-Coat System
Air Tractor E-Coat System

OLNEY, TX (KAUZ) - Air Tractor in Olney is taking steps towards being more innovative and efficient by installing something new on their equipment.

They have installed a new electro-coat system to paint airplane parts. It's the first of its kind in the aerospace industry. It's all because of the help of PPG and Therma-Tron-X.

Electro-coaters have been around for nearly 60 years and are used on cars, but never planes. Why? Typically their oven needs to be 400 to 500 degrees to cure apart, something aluminum cannot handle without being damaged.

But PPG has changed that after working with Air Tractor for seven years to dry the parts at a lower 200-degree heat.

"Now we can run parts through it," Operator Michael Montfort said. "We can run aluminum through it without worrying about hurting the strength of the aluminum, the anti-corrosion properties are better than what we had in the past, and it's chrome free."

That makes Air Tractor the first in the aerospace industry to have an electro-coat line. President Jim Hirsch believes it's just the beginning of future aerospace innovation.

"We may have opportunities to develop with other aerospace companies to do coating for other companies," Hirsch said. "And of course with PPG, there are probably possibilities for other facilities across the country."

Hirsch said it cost hundreds of millions of dollars and it's one of their biggest investments, but well worth it.

"For Air Tractor to take a place as a leader in adopting new technology in the aerospace business is a big deal for us," he said.

Hirsch believes the new system will pay itself off in about six to seven years because of its efficiency. He adds that Air Tractor is constantly working to progress and improve the way they do things.

The current system is nearly chrome-free, which is better for people and the environment. They are working to have it entirely chrome-free in the future.

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