Leland Snow Memorial Scholarship honors remarkable Aggie

Leland Snow was an engineering entrepreneur who shaped the evolution of agricultural aviation. Now his family will endow a memorial scholarship to benefit aerospace engineering students at Texas A&M University.

Snow was founder and president of Olney, Texas-based Air Tractor, which produces the world’s most extensive product line of aerial spray aircraft and single engine air tankers for aerial firefighting. The octogenarian remained active in the company’s engineering and management until his death in February.Photo of Leland Snow

“The qualities that my father exhibited as a young Aggie—a willingness to take risks and a focused determination to achieve his goals in spite of obstacles—are what helped make Air Tractor the success it is today. Our family wants to continue his legacy by rewarding a student who shows similar characteristics,” said Kristin Edwards, Snow’s older daughter and Air Tractor vice-president, Sales. She and her husband Trevor are joined in the gift by her mother, Nancy Snow, and sister, Kara East. Additional donations may be made by friends, family and industry associates.

The Leland Snow Memorial Scholarship in Aerospace Engineering, to be established with a $25,000 gift to the Texas A&M Foundation, will be awarded on the basis of academic achievement, extracurricular activities and financial need to aerospace engineering undergraduates who show exceptional leadership and problem-solving skills, creativity in aircraft design and academic promise.

“Leland Snow’s tireless efforts, keen intellect, strong discipline and work ethic resulted in lasting aircraft designs. Our students will know that their potential for growth and success has no limits because Leland paved the way for them. We are grateful to the Snow family for this scholarship that will continue his name and legacy at Texas A&M,” said Dr. Dimitris C. Lagoudas, department head and holder of the John and Bea Slattery Chair in Aerospace Engineering.

A native of Brownsville, Leland Snow began design and construction of his first airplane while a senior aeronautical engineering student at Texas A&M. His book, Putting Dreams to Flight, reveals how the young cadet stored materials for the fuselage frame in a long shipping box between sofas in the dormitory’s visitation room—and describes his numerous parachute jumps near and on campus at a time when parachutes were relegated to emergencies rather than sport.

Snow graduated with a B.S. degree in 1952 and continued to spray and dust crops in Texas  and Nicaragua. He established Snow Aeronautical Co. in 1957, selling the company to Rockwell-Standard Aero Commander eight years later.

In 1972 he founded Air Tractor, now considered the world’s leading manufacturer of agricultural and firefighting aircraft. Snow transferred company ownership to Air Tractor employees through a stock ownership plan in 2008. The firm delivered its 2,500th aircraft in 2010, and today international sales account for more than 50 percent of its business.

Snow was a prolific designer, with 29 Snow and Air Tractor models certified by the Federal Aviation Agency. Age did not dim his inventiveness. In the last five years he oversaw the design and construction of a two-seat, on-the-job training aircraft for agricultural pilots. He also developed a 1,000-gallon plane for fire fighting and agricultural use. In 2008 an Air Tractor at the Paris Air Show commanded headlines in Flight Daily News, forbes.com, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal for its versatility as an inexpensive and sturdy light attack plane. With ballistic glass and a 2,500 payload capability, the AT-802U can carry Gatling guns, rocket launchers and bombs and other weaponry for intelligence gathering and surveillance.

Snow supported the National Agricultural Aviation Association and its programs for drift minimization and pilot safety. Air Tractor also created the Student Outreach Assistance Resource scholarship fund for children of agricultural pilots who died on the job.

His numerous aviation and industry awards include the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame in 2000 and Air Tractor’s Better Business Bureau International Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics in 2005.

An avid runner, Snow logged more than 17,000 miles after age 60. He completed three marathons after age 65, competing twice in the ING New York City Marathon.

Memorial contributions can be mailed to the Texas A&M Foundation, Attn: Jennifer Hester, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, TX 77840, with a reference on the memo line to the Leland Snow Scholarship.

The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that raises major gifts and manages endowments for the sole benefit of Texas A&M University.