An aerial centennial


WYOBRASKA – This year marks a special milestone for the crop-dusting industry. 2021 is the 100th anniversary of the first crop dusting application.

The first aerial application of a pesticide ever was made on Aug 3 in 1921 as a part of an experiment in Ohio. Sphinx Moth Larvae were destroying catalpa trees. Catalpa trees were being used for railroad ties and poles. A U.S. Army pilot, Lt. John A. Macready, made the successful flight for the experiment in a modified Curtiss JN-6. The first commercial application was made in 1923 by Huff-Daland Dusters Inc.

In the beginning, aerial applications mostly consisted of dry chemicals which earned the pilots and planes the nickname “crop dusters.”  Today’s applications consist of mostly liquid products. 

Many original crop-dusting planes were modified surplus war planes and were relatively cheap. As time went on and the industry grew, planes were developed specifically for purpose of aerial application. A plane now can run a cost of one million dollars or more depending on the technology built into the plane.

There are over 2,500 professional pilots that fly in the United States alone and most of them have thousands of hours of experience. An FAA Part 137 certificate, a commercial pilot’s license, and a letter of competency must be held in order for a pilot to operate in addition to meeting federal and state requirements.

Flying one of these planes requires the focus and concentration of a fighter jet pilot. These pilots place their lives on the line daily and sacrifice a lot of time with their families as they are spraying over 150,000 acres a year of agricultural land. With increased wildfire activity in recent years, the pilots are even more at risk. 

Crop-dusting is an essential part of our daily lives. While the agricultural planes are the most visible, fire-fighting planes are also included in the crop-dusting industry. Ag and fire-bombing planes were featured in the movie “Planes” and “Planes: Fire & Rescue.” Helicopters can also be used in the crop-dusting capacity as well.

There are several events being planned to celebrate the 100th Anniversary. Visit https://www.agaviation.org/ for more information on the Ag Aviation industry.

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