Fred Ayres, founder of Ayres Corporation (what would become Thrush Aircraft), and ag aviation pioneer passed away peacefully on October 6, 2023 in Albany, GA.
Fred was inducted into the National Agricultural Aviation Hall of Fame in 1997, and the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame in 2002. Below is his NAAHOF award presentation as presented during the Awards Banquet at the NAAA Convention in 1997.
Mr. Fred Ayers did not begin his career as the president of Ayres Corp. With over 40 years of aviation experience, it can be said with certainty that there is very little Mr. Ayres has not seen. From spraying operations to ag flight schools, parts distribution, technological breakthroughs, ag and general aviation dealerships to a leading ag aircraft manufacturer, Mr. Ayres has worked diligently and persistently to make Ayers Corp. what it is today.
In 1958, Fred started his own spray business in Blakely, GA, after flying for three years with Dothan Aviation in Dothan, AL. He was one of the first operators of the Grumman Ag Cat and operated a fleet of five by 1962. As the years continued, Ayres developed a relationship with Rockwell International, marketing their line of agricultural aircraft, including the A-9 Sparrow and A9-B Quail, along with the S2R Thrush. In 1967, he formed Ag Aero Distributors, Inc. to handle the domestic and worldwide distribution of Rockwell ag aircraft in the world. Ag Aero rapidly became the largest distributor of Rockwell ag aircraft in the world. In 1969, Commander Air Service in Albany was acquired and all Ayres companies were moved to Albany.
In 1974, Mr. Ayres started an ag pilot training school at Commander Air Service. The training curriculum began with 20 hours of dual in a 450 Stearman and progressed to 30 hours of supervised solo in all the major ag aircraft manufactured at that time. The school was an instant success, with students coming from around the world for the best agricultural aviation training available. Many of the pilots and operators here in this room today began their careers as “Ayres Aggies.“
In 1973, Ayres instituted technology that would revolutionize ag aircraft. This revolution was the marriage of the PT6A-34 turbine to the basic Thrush airframe and included a centrifugal filter system that would permit the turbine to survive in the ag environment. In
1975, the Ayres Turbo Thrush was introduced the ag industry and it became the first successful turboprop-powered ag aircraft in the world.
In 1976, Fred negotiated with Rockwell International for the purchase of the Albany Plant and its general aviation assets and the transaction was completed in November 1977. During the past twenty years, Ayres Corporation has made many changes to the configurations available on the Thrush. The 510-gallon hopper was added, along with the dual cockpit, dual controls, extended wings and a variety of powerplant options from 500 to 1230 HP. The 660-gallon version is the latest off the drawing board and is powered by either P & W or Alled Signal turboprop engines. The Ayres Turbo Thrush is now flying in over 71 countries.
Watch the AgAir Update interview with Fred Ayres below: