Every year AgAir Update dedicates an edition to recap the past 12 editions of the previous year. This year is no different. Here’s a quick summarization of the major stories that appeared on the cover pages of AgAir Update over the past 12 months.
Beginning with the January 2019 AgAir Update, a summarization of the NAAA Ag Aviation Expo held in Reno December 2018 is the cover story. Like every NAAA hosted convention, it was a success with the expo’s highlight being the live auction where Pratt & Whitney Canada made available a PT6A-34AG engine, along with donations from vendors and private individuals alike that are involved in ag-aviation. Read the full article here.
With the February edition, AgAir Update travels to Canada to meet with the newly authorized Canadian Air Tractor dealer, Portage Aircraft based at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. The company was originally formed by John Bodie and Ken Kane in 1978, then called Jonair. Eventually the company evolved into both a spraying company, Jonair, and a maintenance facility, Portage Aircraft. Today, the companies are owned by Dave Frisch and Bryan Dion. Read the full article here.
In the March edition, the AgAir Update travels to Brazil to visit the very progressive family business of Destaque Aviação Agrícola based in São Pedro do Sul, RS. Three brothers purchased the company from their father and in a very short amount of time, expanded the business to include one Ipanema 201 (their father’s original), four Ipanemas 201A, one Ipanema 202 and one Air Tractor 402A. At the timeof AgAir Update’s visit, the company was planning to add a second AT-402A. In its busiest year, 2014, the company treated over 425,000 acres flying in 30 counties for more than a total of 3,500 flight hours from four bases. Read the full article here.
The April edition of AgAir Update features Twin County Air-Ag based at Winnie, Texas. This company not only lost aircraft and buildings to flooding (over 150 inches of rainfall) from Hurricane Harvey earlier in the season before the hurricane hit, Jeff Leger, the son of the owner, Jeffery Leger, experienced a catastrophic engine failure in the Ag-Cat he was flying. The aircraft was consumed with fire. Although Jeff survived the accident, he suffered from smoke inhalation and minor burns. His father was circling above him, helpless. The Legers were glad to see 2017 come to a close! Read the full article here.
Looking back almost 50 years, the May edition brings to life the history of Earl’s Flying Service that was formed in 1970 by Earl Lee. Today, the company is owned and operated by Mike Lee from the Steele, Missouri Municipal Airport. To sum up Earl’s Flying Service comes a quote by Mike says it all; “I’m a problem solver,” says Mike. “Most of my innovations have been born from a practical need for my business, but then a customer will come in and say, ‘Mike, I really like that, I want that on my airplane!’” Read the full article here.
If you have attended a Brazilian ag-aviation convention, you probably watched the aerobatic routine of the Textor family. With the June edition, it features two companies, AeroTek and Aerotex Aviação Agrícola, both with aerobatic and ag-aviation backgrounds. AeroTek is owned by Tiago Textor. Aerotex Aviação Agrícola is owned by Tiago’s father, Ruy Alberto Textor, better known as “Beto”. One of the notable attributes of Aerotex was the formation of a charitable partnership in 2018 that donated half of the proceeds from fighting forest fires by the company’s aircraft to the Rio Verde Cancer Hospital. Aerotek has been equally involved with its local community. The Textor family’s motto is to promote agricultural aviation, social consciousness and the betterment of the environment. Read the full article here.
Every year, more women become ag-pilots. AgAir Update has featured several of them, including Kaydee Mitchell and her journey from zero time to ag-time in the July edition of AgAir Update. Young Kaydee was raised on a 20,000-acre cotton and soybean farm owned by her uncle. She was faced with the career decision all young people have when leaving high school, which path to follow. When her uncle expressed the need of an ag-plane dedicated to spray his farm, Kaydee quickly volunteered for the job. The only problem was that Kaydee had never been in an aircraft! In less than a year, Kaydee earned her pilot’s licenses, pesticide license and formed a new FAA certified Part 137 agricultural aviation company. The article continues telling how Kaydee trained and made the huge transition to being an ag-operator. She also offers her praises to her mentors that trained her and flew with her in her new company. Read the full article here.
Like so many ag-operations that are passed down over the generations, August’s edition features today’s Woolard Flying Service that was originally formed by Roy Coleman in 1981 in Corning, Arkansas. Matt Woolard married Roy’s daughter, Cindy, and started working for Roy loading aircraft a few short years later. From there, Matt earned his A&P rating and Commercial Pilot’s license to eventually not only fly for Roy, but purchased his flying service in 2015. Today, the company operates an AT-802 and an AT-502B with the Aero Innovations’ Loadmaster prop. Read the full article here.
One of the many challenges of ag-aviation is a pilot making the transition into a turbine powered ag-plane and maintaining a maximum degree of safe operations while flying it. To meet that challenge, AgAir Update’s September edition featured Turbine Training Center based in Manhattan, Kansas. Turbine Training Center owns one of the very few ag-aircraft simulators, in this case for the Air Tractor model ag-planes. Using the cockpit of a decommissioned AT-802, a simulator was built for Turbine Training Center based on the AT-502/AT-802. The simulator is a fully equipped cockpit with force-feedback flight controls and a 270-degree field-of-view. Read the full article here.
As is true with many ag-operations, Wells Flying Service in Holdrege, Nebraska is a four-generation operation. AgAir Update’s October edition tells the story of Harley Wells starting out in the 1950s. Wells Flying Service is now owned and operated by his grandsons, Ryan and Randy, with their father, Dave, having owned the company between 1975 and March 2019. Today, the company operates four AT-802s, an AT-502, a TPE331 powered AT-402, a 510P Thrush and a Piper Brave. The fleet is the combination of several flying services purchased over the years by Wells Flying Service and operates from four bases in Nebraska and North Dakota. A fourth generation, 19-year old Alex Wells, is attending college full-time and helping with the operation during his time off. Read the full article here.
Not many think of New Jersey as an agricultural state large enough to support ag-aviation operators. A quick trip to The Garden State provides the cover story for AgAir Update’s November edition. Wings Aerial Applicators is not only different because of its unique location in Southhampton, New Jersey, it is also a family run business with father Jeff Daniel and son, Austin, both flying, as well as Austin’s wife, Emily, all ag-pilots for the company. When not busy flying over their cranberry farm, Jeff flies for American Airlines and is a member of The Raiders Demo Team flying aerobatics in a Yak 52. Not to be outdone, Austin serves in the Air National Guard flying one of its F-16s. And, Emily owns a flight school named, “Chick and Rudder”. The company has a fleet of ag-aircraft that include an Eagle, Turbine Dromader, Weatherlys, Pawnee and an L-19 Bird Dog used for field scouting. The Daniels found a niche that works for them and are doing their best to keep the “Garden” in The Garden State. Read the full article here.
The December edition brings to a close 2019 by featuring the National Agricultural Aviation Association hosting its annual Ag Aviation Expo held last November at the Rosen Shingles Resort in Orlando, Florida. The new dates and venue set the stage for a hugely successful convention. Each year, the exhibit hall seems filled with more exhibitors than years before. It is a busy five days, starting on Sunday and ending Thursday night with the Farewell Reception and Awards Banquet. During two days of exhibit hall time, the other days are packed with association meetings and sessions aimed at promoting safety, profits and professionalism within the industry. In 2020, the NAAA Ag Aviation Expo will be held the first week of December in Savannah, Georgia. Read the full article here.