NATA Education Director, Certified S.A.F.E. Analyst

Agri-Spray Constulting

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My son, Carson, and I had the opportunity to spend five weeks in Australia last summer pattern testing aircraft. Everything had been lined up by Adam Hooper, Program Manager for the Aerial Application Association of Australia and after our arrival we spent a few days in Sydney recuperating from the long flight and then traveled to Griffith, New South Wales (NSW) for a day of assembling flight line equipment that we had decided not to ship to Australia. We spent two days of pattern testing with Ed Dowling, Thomson Aviation and Gerard Higgins, SkyCroppers. Mid-afternoon on the second day of testing, we were flown to Camperdown, Victoria by Brett Hislop, Border Air Services and spent the evening pattern testing his plane.

We finished the various passes in Camperdown as it was getting dark and traveled back to the hangar to evaluate the string. When I plugged in my spectrometer, sparks flew, smoke filled the office and the spectrometer went dead. I still had a large number of aircraft to test in Australia, so I went to work on the machine. I was able to determine that the power converter had failed, but after electrocuting myself twice, I felt it would be better to leave the repair job to someone more qualified than myself (someone that remembers to unplug it before working on it). After visiting with Dick Whitney in the U.S. throughout the night by phone, he was able to line up a new power supply and have it shipped to us.

Early the next morning, Stephen Death of Hazair and Adam Hooper picked us up in Stephen’s Cessna 206 and we flew to Hazair in Aubury, NSW. Hazair’s Aircraft Maintenance person, Greg Burke quickly found parts and repaired the spectrometer, so we were up and running again. After a day of testing for Hazair and Ag Flite near Aubury, we were flown south by Mick Gribble to Benambra, Victoria where we froze while testing Mick’s aircraft.

From Benambra, we traveled north throughout New South Wales pattern testing in Quirindi for Les Brown of Quirindi Air, then to Piallaway to test for Jono Middlebrook of Middlebrook Air Operations, then to Moree testing Ben Brazier at Aircair Aviation, Charlie Tootell at Precision Aerial Management and Brent Nottage with Helispecs. After two, busy days of testing in Moree, we traveled to St. George, Queensland to test for Jason O’toole at Balonne Airwork. Following twelve days of nothing but travel and pattern testing, we finally flew north to Cairns, Queensland for a four-day break on the beach. We elected not to go for a swim as there were signs along the beach warning the presence of salt water crocodiles.

At the end of our break, we rented a car and drove a couple of hours inland to Atherton, Queensland where we tested planes for Hamish Jacob at Atherton Tableland Air Service. We then headed to the south coast for a full day of testing planes at Aerotech in Kent Town, South Australia. That evening, Aerotech held an informational meeting for their customers and conduced a canopy infiltration demonstration using a fluorescent dye comparing ground application to aerial application. The aerial application (at a much lower application rate) won the contest hands down.

Our next stop was all the way over to the west coast of Australia to test planes for Brad Jones, Bungulla Farming in Tammin, Western Australia and then south to Esparance where we spent a day testing for Scott Mackie of Southeast Air Ag. Scott gave us a tour of the Esparance area which is a beautiful place located right on the southern coast. We spent the night with Scott and his family and truly appreciated their hospitality!

The final stop on our trip was back in Aubury where we dodged rain storms to test helicopters for John Murray with Forest Air Helicopters. We had a great time with John, but I could tell that Carson was getting tired of testing planes when he decided to pick a fight with a kangaroo that had wandered near the flight line. Carson did, however, run away from the fight.

Each operation that Carson and I visited was a very high quality aerial application operation.  They utilize the latest application technology, high quality nozzles, well maintained aircraft and various safety practices. All were very hospitable and friendly. It was just like testing planes here in the U.S. except they don’t have my brand of beer!

After being gone for five weeks, traveling well over 40,000 miles, testing 30 ag-aircraft, completing over 300 passes and using over 10 miles of string, we finally arrived back home. We had a great time in Australia, met so many  tremendous people and we were lucky enough to have an experience few people get to have. I truly appreciate the Aerial Application Association of Australia and its membership for making our trip so enjoyable!