GLOVERSVILLE - As soon as Darren DeRocker fired up the machine, the water from Thursday's rain immediately moved off the asphalt parking lot next to the Curtin-Hebert building.
DeRocker, who owns Curtin-Hebert with Michael Ruggiero and Bruce Anderson, said at one point he had the AirJet running on full power, with an engine that rotates at about 3,500 revolutions per minute.
The machine, which has been in development for four years under the eye of David Agee, president of AirJet Technologies, was manufactured at the Curtin-Hebert facility on Forest Street, from concept to the finished product unveiled Thursday.
Above, Dave Agee, left, demonstrates the wind power by holding a piece of plastic ribbon in front of the jet blowers as Darren DeRocker, center, one of the owners of Curtin-Hebert and Paul Syracuse, general manager of Buffalo Turbine, look on Thursday outside the Curtin-Hebert building in Gloversville.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
"It's huge to have a company in Gloversville to manufacture a product that could have worldwide implications," said Wally Hart, president of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
The first time Agee stepped in front of the AirJet, he said, the turbine-powered hurricane-force winds knocked him down. The concept for the machine was designed by project engineer Brian Nagamatsu, but it was the workers at Curtin-Hebert who turned it into a functioning machine.
"Without them, this AirJet would not be possible," Agee said.
However, there were challenges along the way.
DeRocker said the biggest hurdles to overcome were plow design and getting the air to flow through the machine. The plow design helps control the air flow and the moveable blades allow the operator to control the direction of the snow.
"One time we tested it by putting it in front of a foot of snow, but we put the snow on the neighbors roof, so it was back to the drawing board," Agee said. "Now we can direct the airflow and put the snow where we want it to go."
Hart, who stepped in front of the machine while DeRocker had it running, said he was amazed by how localized the air flow was. He put his hand about a foot from where the air emerges from the machine and said he felt no wind.
DeRocker said there are about 10 old plow designs that did not work in the Curtin-Hebert building.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, used the AirJet prototype to declare manufacturing "is alive and well in this country." He said the Capital Region is No. 1 in the country in green-collar jobs and No. 3 in high-tech manufacturing, an area he said the U.S. government has neglected over the past 15 years.
"America needs to invest in its manufacturing sector," Tonko said.
According to a news release from AirJet Technologies, the AirJet system can be used to clear debris, dry racetracks and athletic fields, clear runways and clear railroad tracks. It's main use, however, is as a snowplow. Because the AirJet dries surfaces using a high-speed wind, it would reduce the use of salt and other polluting de-icing agents, the release said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 11 million tons of salt is spread on streets and highways every year.
"This is an environmental benefit we need to embrace," Tonko said.
Agee said he jumped on the AirJet bandwagon four years ago when Nagamatsu came to him with the concept. About two years ago, Agee approached Curtin-Hebert, which was looking to diversify, and add onto its business of creating machines for precision grinding, sanding and finishing Machinery
"We're all very excited about it," DeRocker said. "If we can help keep the jobs in Fulton County, we're all for it."
Starting this week, AirJet Technologies will be taking its prototype on the road at a trade show this week in Maine. Agee said they also will take the AirJet to a public works trade show in Denver and an airport trade show in New Orleans.
For airport use, Agee said the machine can clear and dry a runway in minutes and clear the runway lights and making it unnecessary to dig each one out with a shovel if it snows.
However, no matter where company officials have to go to market the product, they plan to keep manufacturing it in the city.
"We're all from Fulton County," Agee said. "Our kids are here; our grandkids are here. This is where we live so this is where we are going to produce the AirJet snow machine."
Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.