I am simply not going to preach in this editorial about the onslaught of fatalities thus far into this 2021 spray season. I’m sure that everyone is aware. However, it does bring up two topics that are indirectly related.
Reports are that this year is probably one of the more intense runs since the start of what is known industry-wide as the “corn run”. As I write this, the corn run is still going. For many, these six weeks or so of daylight to dark flying has made a significant difference in their operation and for pilots, their checkbook. That’s a good thing and overall the corn run has been a blessing.
The clock is ticking and every possible acre needs spraying, or it’s gone for another year. Rightly so, the tension mounts and the pathway for an accident all too often presents itself. For a very few, it has become the last spray run of their career.
There was a fatality last month from a Dromader in-flight wing separation. This was not the first time a wing has come off a Dromader. I know of three Dromader wing separation accidents. Oddly enough, there was only one fatality. However, the accident in July makes for four fatal accidents. There may have been more.
An FAA Airworthiness Directive and an accompanying Melex Factory Service Bulletin followed the third accident that happened in September 2000. That AD required the periodic eddy current inspection of the wing attach points to the aircraft’s center section every 500 hours or annually, whichever comes first. I don’t know if the accident Dromader of July this year was inspected properly, or even if it was inspected. If it had been inspected properly, in my view the AD requirements may need revisiting. An in-flight wing separation is almost assured to be a fatality. Every possible means should be used to comply with the AD properly. In time, maybe the NTSB can rule on the July accident in such a way to secure confidence in the structural integrity of the Dromader.
My son, Graham, returned from AirVenture in Oshkosh last month where NAAA hosted a venue. Michael Hutchins brought an AT-802 and Thrush factory pilot Terry Humphry flew in a 510P Thrush. These two aircraft gave demonstration flights for the thousands in attendance. Several volunteers assisted in the NAAA booth answering questions about ag aviation. This is excellent public relations for the industry. Should you meet one of the volunteers, or an NAAA staff member, be sure to thank them for their hard work.
I led off the previous paragraph referring to Graham, who grew up in the ag aviation industry; first as me being his ag-pilot father and in later years as editor publisher of AgAir Update. Most of the changes during the last few years you have seen with AgAir Update and the formation of AerialFire have been from the efforts put forth by Graham. He’s been a huge asset to the business.
I’ve been pushing this ag-aviation rope for over 48 years. The time has come for me to step back and let youth take over. This past January 1, I sold AgAir Update and its sister publication, AerialFire, to a well-deserving man, Graham. I’ll remain on the payroll as a consultant, which means you’ll still see me at many conventions and elsewhere. You won’t see much change in AAU, except improvements. Besides, Graham has been running things for several years.
I probably should have retired earlier. Almost three months into retirement, I had a full, right side, moderate stroke. I can say without reservation, it was a life changing event. If it had not been for the dedication of Graham, his wife Holly, my wife Sandy and daughter Casey, I may not have survived the three weeks in ICU. It’s been four months since I came home from the hospital. I improve daily, going from flat on my back with 24-hour home health care givers to a wheelchair, to a 4-wheel walker, to a 2-wheel walker to a cane and now to walking two miles every morning increasing that a little with each walk. If there was only one thing I could say about this “event”, it gave me a much better appreciation for God and family.
Until next time, Keep Turning…