October 2, 2003
Albany -- Two years ago Ayres Aircraft shut down in Albany, laying off 627 workers. In June the business was sold. And now, Thrush Aircraft Incorporated has the airplane manufacturing assembly line taking off again.
The first Thrush agricultural aircraft that should be flying out of the new plant in December. Larry Bays says "I'm out here everyday watching it come together. It's quite a process."
Former Albany mayor Larry Bays and former Network Publications owner Payne Hughes bought the former Ayres Aircraft plant June 30th. Bays learned to love these planes early. At age 17 he delivered the planes to customers.
And he would not make them anywhere but Albany. "Albany is home. So we are glad to be in Albany," Bays said. And we're glad to be able to do it with Albany."
Asked if the company would be able to stay this time, he replied: "We're going to do our best. We think so."
Thrush will make crop dusters and firebombers, designed to fight forest fires in remote areas. Bays is betting the new improved Thrush aircraft will be a big seller. Thrush already have fifty-six employees working, and plan to add fifty more in the coming weeks. The growth is just beginning. Bays said "We hope to have three to four hundred employees by the end of next year."
Many former Ayers employees have come back to work at Thrush. Like Danny Drinkwater, who left a job at Moody Air Force Base. Drinkwater said "Here after you work a week, you can say 'Look here is the airplane I built.'"
Patricia Pearson is another former Ayres employee, glad to be back riveting airplanes. Pearson said "I enjoy what I'm doing, and it's exciting to see the planes leave."
The 227,000 square foot Thrush factory next to the Albany airport is alive again. The high paying jobs at the plant promise new economic prosperity for the region. The Thrush ag aircraft cost between $644,000 and $964,000 apiece.
Larry Bays said in the next months the plant should be producing three planes a month, as well as doing repair work for aviation companies.