It’s Crop Dusting Season!
At one time or another, most of us airplane types have paused along a rural road to watch a farm field being dusted by an ag plane. Occasionally, our own Galt Airport is used by area dusting operators as a staging area. The tarmac between the runway and taxiway opposite the fuel tanks is a good area for ag planes to taxi up, reload their hoppers from ag trucks stationed where they don’t interfere with regular air traffic. Fuel is conveniently just across the pavement.
One of the frequent aerial application operators is “Digger Doug’s Cropdusting” from nearby Salem, WI. The owner, Doug Gust, is a self-described adrenalin junkie and champion ATV Motocross racer who competed around the world for team Suzuki and owned an excavating business. After digging a lake on his property, he found himself with an abundance of dirt, so he used it to create a private runway. But a runway needs an airplane, so he bought one and then took flying lessons. He flew himself to races all around the country. In 2010, he saw a crop duster at work and knew what he wanted to do when he retired. Digger now owns three ag planes as part of a thriving agricultural application operation.
If you should find yourself in the traffic pattern while an ag plane is using the tarmac for reloading, keep a sharp eye out. Those pilots are being paid by the acre. If they’re not applying a load, they’re not making any money. It’s not at all unusual for them to land downwind, quickly fill their hoppers and takeoff upwind. Taxiing to or from the far end of the runway is time wasted. The whole reload operation can be as finely tuned as a pit stop at Indy, often taking only 5 minutes.
And don’t expect a lot of radio chatter coming from an ag plane. They may or may not be on the local frequency. When they click the mike, it’s usually to check in with their ground crew or to check with other ag planes that might be spraying nearby.
That’s not to say that they’re unfriendly. To the contrary, they’re some of the most interesting and unassuming pilots to talk to. But when they’re trying to get off the ground to complete a job, they’re just very busy. Unfortunately, their most common interaction with approaching civilians is to field complaints about a house being buzzed, animals being frightened or people questioning the safety of the chemicals being used. Once you’re identified as a “friendly,” ag pilots are happy to answer any questions you might have as long as they have time.
Gone are the days when crop dusting was done by eyeball, with someone on the ground holding a tall pole to mark the next pass. Today, specialized GPS systems identify the coordinates of the field, make sure that every spot on a field gets the same amount of chemicals, controls the metered applicators and corrects for wind to eliminate drifting. Accuracy is paramount. Training and situational awareness now minimizes the risks both in the aircraft and on the ground. At the end of a job, the farmer is mailed a printed “As Applied” record of exactly when, where, what and how much of any chemical was applied, as tracked by the onboard systems.
While cockpit electronics have vastly improved, the hazards have multiplied. Low flying pilots used to watch for power lines, fences and trees. Today, cell towers and wind turbines are popping up everywhere. Drones are being used to survey fields and check high-tension wires. An ag pilot has to stay aware of all these things while flying 10 feet off the ground at 160 mph for what can be a 14-hour work day.
Commercial ratings are required for ag pilots, along with Agricultural Application licenses for every state where they work. They attend regular training sessions on everything from proper nozzle metering to safe chemical handling. Respect that their plane is their workplace. The job may be seasonal, but it’s essential to agriculture.
So, if you’re airborne and you spot a crop duster, give ’em some room to make a buck while the weather holds.
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For the sake of anyone unable to attend the Chapter’s Barnstormer’s Day two weeks ago, you may be unaware of the surprise that Mother Nature visited upon us during the wee hours of Saturday morning. The complete story of the early morning miracle that an amazing crew of volunteers pulled off needs to be told so you can pass on the saga to your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with embellishments of course.
Early Friday evening, our Chapter Vice President, Bill Tobin, and his setup crew began preparing what appeared to be several million fresh eggs for the next morning. While that was being accomplished, Bill Tobin and other crew members constructed a new base to hold and level the 3 large propane powered grills that are used for cooking hash browns, sausages and the aforementioned gazillion eggs. As that project was being completed, Bill Tobin and still more crew members prepared coolers, coffee makers and staging areas where even more volunteers could cook and serve hundreds of pancake breakfasts the following morning. Tables were unfolded, chairs put out, canopies assembled and wash stations placed. An amazing sound system was magically created from bits of bailing wire and several bottle caps, and a few dozen other tasks were completed before everyone turned into pumpkins at midnight.
You can be forgiven for thinking that I’ve mentioning the name Bill Tobin a bit often. I have not, as there appeared to be at least five of him. No one human could possibly be so “everywhere” all of the time. Really.
With things looking good for Saturday’s 8AM opening, Galt was tucked in for the night and everyone went home for a well-deserved rest. Before tucking himself in for the night, Justin Cleland , the airport manager, took a look at the weather forecast and saw, to his horror, that a nasty storm with gusty winds was headed directly at his beloved airport. He lept to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle…sorry, wrong story…actually, he rushed back to Galt to cover up the sound system electronics, arriving before the rain, but after the wind gusts. By the light of the rotating beacon, he could see green and white flashes of destruction all around. All three of the chapter’s 10’x20’ canopies were crumpled, along with one of Joe Feigle’s and several smaller pop-ups. Tables and chairs were scattered and the big circus tent that serves as the dining area was sagging.
Beginning at 5:30 the next morning, a raft of texts and photos were exchanged between Bill, Arnie, Paul, Joe, Justin and others with pictures of the devastation and rushed messages about finding new canopies and straightening up the mess. By 7:30AM, Joe had somehow located and purchased two new canopies while a third was resurrected using pieces from the other two.
Other than a tangle of metal canopy structures discreetly tucked on one side of the maintenance garage, everything appeared entirely normal and ready for business. The circus tent was drawn tight, chairs and tables were righted. At 8AM, visitors began flooding onto the grounds of Galt, oblivious to the preceding night’s catastrophe.
An amazing effort saved the day. It’s impossible to know of everyone in every crew who pitched in to help. Be assured that your contribution hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated. The following names are just a few of the people who helped save the event, enabling EAA Chapter 932 to once again host a highly successful Barnstormer’s Day: Bill Tobin, who is just possibly the hardest working volunteer on earth. (Editor’s Note: If you happen to see Bill over the next few weeks, please speak softly and try not to startle him. He’s still a bit fragile.); Dave Spitzbart, our tireless set-up volunteer, pancake flipper and certified pancake machine mechanic; Deena Schwartz, Bake Sale organizer extraordinaire; Kim Feigel, who helped make the Kid’s Activities area such a great success; Her husband, Joe Feigel who set up the kid’s area and somehow handled emergency tent procurement while still managing the treasury; Chick Clemen, who appears wherever you need him most; Jerry, the graphics guy who needed a GPS just to post his signs; Daniela and Jeremy Knoll who managed ramp operations and were our first responders; Jo Murray, our PHD of breakfast sales; Mike Fay, who helped with setup and found places for all those cars to park; Brian Spiro and Bill Tobin, our Electronic Alchemists, for assembling a truly outstanding, hum-free sound system; and Parker Johnston and his engineer/producer, Jeff, for their excellent Showcase interviews. Special thanks to all of the CAP volunteers, cooks, servers, table wipers and tray washers, and everyone else who helped out by picking up every stray napkin, sticky syrup container, or grass-covered plastic utensil. Last, but certainly not least, a massive round of applause is needed for Chapter Secretary, Paul Sedlacek, who, once again, pulled off the impossible task of planning, coordinating – and rescuing – another Barnstormer’s Day.
Thank you all!
The President’s Page
Greetings EAA 932 Members,
As we turn the corner into July, THE HEAT IS ON!!! Despite the heat, I hope that everyone has had a chance to partake in some of the cool stuff we have had going on around the airport. July will also be a “cool” month as well. I would like to take an opportunity to reflect on the past month, and what lies ahead for us.
On June 16th our chapter hosted its annual Barnstormer Day at Galt. The weather was steaming hot, but that did not hold back the crowds from coming out to enjoy Barnstormers. Once again we served close to 500 pancake breakfasts. The event was a huge success. Chapter member Paul Sedlacek did a great job in organizing and orchestrating this event. Thank you Paul for all of your hard work! Along with Paul this event would not have been a major success without our dedicated chapter members who volunteered their time and talents in every which way to make the event successful. I would like to draw some attention to Bill Tobin as well in that his leadership in coordinating all aspects of the food service for the event once again worked flawlessly. Thanks Bill! Another fine group of folks who helped tremendously was our Civil Air Patrol membership from Galt Airport. These fine young people along with their adult leaders worked at our side tirelessly which was highly appreciated. During the event we did suffer a mishap involving an aircraft that flew in for the event. Fortunately, the pilot and his passenger are ok, and we thank the Hebron Fire and Rescue Squad who were already on site for our event for their swift response. Our chapter members did a great job in staying calm as we responded to the incident. Despite the incident, Barnstormer Days continued to run, and the event turned out to be a great success. Once again, thanks again to all involved! It was a great day!
Young Eagles Rally – July 14th
Instead of a regular chapter gathering, we will host our first Young Eagles Rally on Saturday July 14th from 9 am to 12 noon. Pilots will brief at 8:30 am. We need pilots and ground support staff to help out with the event. During the rally, we will have a grill going to serve hot dogs to our guests and volunteers. Young Eagles is a long standing program that allows chapters nationwide to provide young people between the age of 7 to 17 to experience the joy of aviation by going for an airplane ride. Please contact me via email at email@example.com, or by phone at 815.403.1696 if you can help out.
The world’s greatest aviation event is in our backyard, and just around the corner! Airventure at Oshkosh is coming up on July 23-29th. I hope that everyone will be able to enjoy some part of this great event. I am sure many of you will be heading up to Oshkosh for your annual pilgrimage. Our chapter will have presence within Camp Scholler on the grounds of Oshkosh. Myself, along with Bill Tobin and Joe Feigel have reserved three campsite plots. We are hoping to have a few extra tents set up on these sites for folks in the chapter that might want to come up and spend a night or two at Oshkosh first come, first serve. I will send out more details as we get closer to Airventure. We hope to also have some kind of chapter social event during the week of Oshkosh. Stay tuned!
Seen our website? It’s grabbing attention!
Have you taken a moment to log into the new website that we have developed over the past several months? You can check it out at www.eaa932.org. We have worked very hard to bring it up to speed to provide you with an abundance of information about our chapter. Our web editor, Meira Leonard has donated endless hours of her time and talents to provide this great website to us. She has also trained a few of us on how to use the back office of the site. Chapter member Jerry Thomas has taken a great lead helping out with this effort. Earlier this week, I received a letter from our friends at EAA Headquarters that our web editor, Meira Leonard will be receiving the 2018 Chapter Web Editor Award at EAA Oshkosh! This will be presented at the Chapter President’s breakfast on Saturday July 28th starting at 8 am. The ceremony will take place in the Founder’s Wing at the EAA Aviation Museum located on the grounds of the Oshkosh Airventure. I hope we can have a presence of chapter members who can support us as we receive this prestigious award!!! Congratulations Meira for a job well done!!!
As we head into the heart of summer, I hope that everyone in our chapter is doing well, and enjoying the warm summer months. We have a great airport community at Galt Airport, and I am proud to help lead such a wonderful group of people who are extremely dedicated to our aviation community. Fly safe and have a great month!
Arnie Quast, President, EAA Chapter 932