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Thrush Aircraft flying high

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ALBANY (WALB) - While the aviation industry has seen better days, one sector is soaring. The skies becoming more friendly to the agriculture end of the flight business.

"There are 3 Ag Aviation companies in the world. And all three are increasing production," said Thrush Aircraft President Payne Hughes.

Albany based Thrush Aircraft is one them. Production of its crop duster planes is on the rise thanks in part to strong footing in the global market place with its aircraft flying in 80 countries.

"Worldwide, agriculture is booming because there is more and more people eating better than they ever have before.

With 60% of its sales international, this year alone, three dozen models of the Thrush 510P will soon be flying over farms in 6 continents.

"Most of our deliveries at this time frame are going to places like Brazil, Argentina, and Australia," said Thrush VP of Sales Eric Rojek.

"Most of the time they're ferried. You use the hopper, and instead of having chemicals in it, you use it for fuel. And they're ferried literally around the world," he said.

In an era when pink slips often replace paychecks, the international demand for crop dusters has created local jobs in the Albany 

 110 employees, 30 of them added in the past year, make up part of a bustling assembly line where the company manufactures everything from the wings to the mechanical parts. 

Last year 36 planes rolled off the assembly line and by this time next year, they hope that number will be 48.

As Thrush works to be the leader of the AG aviation pack, more planes will be manufactured at its Albany production facility.

"Our brand is picking up and we will regain the dominate spot in the future," said Hughes who admits he would like to push out 100 to 200 planes a year worldwide by 2015.

Thrush is currently waiting on approval for the GE manufactured engine which will go into its 510G aircraft. Once approved, the new models will begin rolling off the assembly line in 2012.

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