To commemorate its 50th anniversary, this year NAAA has been celebrating 50 years of agricultural aviation advocacy. NAAA was officially founded on Nov. 28, 1966, when delegates ratified the association’s governing documents at a meeting in Las Vegas. Men such as Dick Reade of Mid-Continent Aircraft Corp., who was elected as the association’s first president, established the newly created National Aerial Applicators Association to coordinate, educate and advocate the interests of the U.S. agricultural aviation industry at the national level.
Four years later, at the 1970 NAAA Convention, members decided to change the organization’s name to the National Agricultural Aviation Association. Half a century later NAAA is still going strong. Such a milestone is certainly worth celebrating.
As Chris Shields, a lobbyist and executive director for the Texas Agricultural Aviation Association, explains, “The significance of NAAA having a 50th anniversary is a lot bigger than a lot of people think. And the reason is this: if you follow associations, especially associations that work around government or the legislature, you’ll find a lot of them have very short lives. They don’t last that long. Fifty years is a long time for an association to remain in place, to be healthy, and especially a long period of time when you see the kind of movement and growth that has occurred in NAAA.”
The timeline that follows highlights milestones and key accomplishments since NAAA was founded 50 years ago as the only national association representing—and connecting—aerial applicators across the United States.
50 Years of NAAA: Protecting Ag Aviation Then, Now and Always
Nov. 28, 1966: NAAA is founded as the National Aerial Applicators Association during a meeting of NAAA’s charter members in Las Vegas. NAAA’s first officers were 1967 President Richard “Dick” Reade of Missouri, Vice President Robert Phillips of California, Secretary George Harris of Oklahoma and Treasurer A.T. Morgan of Louisiana.
March 1967: NAAA opens its Washington, D.C., office.
May 1, 1967: F. Farrell Higbee begins as NAAA’s first executive director.
Dec. 3–5, 1967: NAAA holds its first convention in Dallas at the Marriott Motor Hotel. “Preview of Tomorrow” is the theme.
December 1970: NAAA members pass a resolution to change the name of the association to the National Agricultural Aviation Association. After NAAA replaced “Aerial Application” with “Agricultural Aviation” in its name, many state associations followed suit.
1973: The existence of a national association promoting safety and safer practices results in reducing accidents from 52.7 (6.9 fatal) per 100,000 hours flown in 1952 to 25.4 (2.4 fatal) per 100,000 hours flown in 1973.
March 1974: The World of Agricultural Aviation debuts as NAAA’s official magazine.
1974: In the grips of a nationwide energy and fuel crisis, NAAA fights to ensure that aerial applicators aren’t deprived of needed fuel to fly their aircraft. Rick Reed of Reed’s Fly-On Farming in Illinois recalls, “If I could not get fuel to put into my airplanes, I made a call to NAAA and fuel was arranged. … They kept the industry going. If it was not for the NAAA, that would not have happened.”
December 1976: The Women of the National Agricultural Aviation Association (WNAAA) is established as an auxiliary arm of NAAA. The WNAAA’s main purpose would be to educate the public about agricultural aviation and provide a support network for women in the industry. In 2015, the WNAAA became NAAA’s Support Committee.
December 1979: NAAA breaks attendance records by drawing nearly 3,400 attendees at its 13th convention in Las Vegas.
1981: NAAA establishes Operation S.A.F.E. (Self-regulating Application and Flight Efficiency) to enhance aerial application efficacy and precision through professional application analysis clinics offered at fly-ins around the country.
Summer 1982: Harold Collins succeeds Farrell Higbee as NAAA executive director. Collins joined NAAA’s staff in 1978 as its director of government affairs.
Fall 1982: NAAA’s Board of Directors establishes the National Agricultural Aviation Research and Education Foundation (NAAREF), a nonprofit organization created to foster research, technology transfer and advanced education opportunities among aerial applicators, allied industries, government agencies and academic institutions.
November 1982: NAAA’s magazine changes its name from The World of Agricultural Aviation to Agricultural Aviation.
1990: NAAA and NAAREF release “The Aerial Applicator’s Growing Role,” a videotape designed to inform viewers about the benefits of aerial application to production agriculture. In 2009 the video was remade.
December 1991: NAAA celebrates its silver anniversary at its 25th Annual Convention & Exposition. The theme is “25 years of Progress.”
June 1992: Rick Reed and Dick Reade, NAAA’s sitting and inaugural presidents, respectively, accept the Milton Caniff Spirit of Flight Award on behalf of the agricultural aviation industry from the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
January 1994: James Boillot succeeds Harold Collins, who retired in the fall of ’93, as NAAA’s third executive director.
1995: NAAA launches its Leadership Training Program with the help of Syngenta Crop Protection (formerly Zeneca Agricultural Products). The intent of the program is to develop more industry leaders by expanding their knowledge of the public arena, and enhancing their public speaking to better equip them to promote the aerial application industry to the public.
January 1998: The Professional Aerial Applicators’ Support System from NAAREF debuts in Louisiana. The training program is devoted to educating pilots on essential safety, security and drift minimization issues important to flying, modern agriculture and crop protection.
September 2001: After the FAA issues a complete ground stoppage after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, NAAA succeeds in getting government approval to fly again, making agricultural aviation the first sector of general aviation allowed back up in the air after the tragic terror attacks against the U.S. on 9/11.
2002: After federal funding for aerial application technology research had declined significantly in the 1990s and faced elimination, NAAA stepped in to reestablish the aerial application research focus at the USDA Agricultural Research Service and increased funding for the program by more than half a million dollars in 2002. Through 2016 NAAA has increased funding for this research by $7.7 million.
Mid-2002: Andrew Moore becomes NAAA’s fifth executive director. Moore started as NAAA’s director of legislative affairs in 1997.
2004: After seven years of lobbying, NAAA’s efforts pay off when the EPA announces the elimination of a Worker Protection Standard requirement for aerial applicators to wear chemical-resistant gloves when entering and exiting aircraft. The change goes into effect Nov. 1, 2004.
2005: After five years of extensive lobbying, NAAA achieves its top legislative priority when Congress enacts legislation exempting fuel used to ferry and apply crop protection products in ag planes from the federal excise tax. Prior to the legislation’s enactment an aerial applicator was not exempted from paying the excise tax on fuel used to ferry an ag plane to an application site. The new law also eliminates the provision that required aerial applicators to obtain waivers from their farmer/clients before being eligible to take the exemption. This exemption has saved the aerial application industry more than $4 million a year in fuel excise taxes and individual operators thousands of dollars each year. For example, if an operator flies 400 hours a year per plane and burns roughly 40 gallons an hour at the Avgas tax rate of 19.4 cents a gallon, that is a $3,104 savings per aircraft per year for that operator. If the operator has a turbine engine aircraft, at the Jet A tax rate of 21.9 cents a gallon, that is a $3,504 savings per aircraft per year for that operator. These savings do not take into account the significant savings to aerial applicators in the form of reduced paperwork costs associated with obtaining farmer waivers.
2010: NAAA launches a public outreach campaign to raise awareness about the worrisome effects of wind energy development on agriculture and aviation. The industry’s concerns are explained in a series of wind tower safety ad slicks, statement stuffers and radio scripts that end with the tagline, “Let’s Be Fair About Sharing The Air.”
2012: NAAA’s releases its 2012 Aerial Application Industry Survey of Part 137 operators and ag pilots, which finds their average age to be 53 and 49.9, respectively. The survey also identifies that there were 1,350 aerial application operations and 1,430 U.S. non-operator pilots throughout the U.S. The 2012 survey along with other NAAA surveys conducted in 1992, 1998, 2000 and 2004 collected actual use data from aerial applicators on the average number of acres treated, drift mitigation measures implemented and occupational exposure mitigation measures practiced in the field. This data in numerous cases has resulted in either preserving the aerial use of a crop protection product and/or prevented aerial use restrictions for a crop protection product.
2014–2016: As the FAA considers how best to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems into the National Airspace System, NAAA positions itself as one of the leading aviation advocates speaking up on behalf of manned pilots. Considerable time is spent lobbying federal agencies responsible for UAV rule development and speaking to the media in an ongoing effort to ensure a safe low-level operating environment for aerial applicators. NAAA continues to press for strobes, pilot license credentials and ID/tracking systems for UAVs operating in low-level airspace.
December 2015: Brenda Watts is elected as NAAA’s first woman president for 2016.
July 2016: After more than a decade of arduous work, NAAA achieves a major legislative victory with the passage of new federal tower marking requirements for towers under 200 feet. Measures creating a tower database and requiring the marking of towers between 50 and 200 feet were included in the FAA reauthorization bill President Obama signed on July 15. The tower marking requirements apply to all towers with an above-ground base of 10 feet or less in diameter that are on undeveloped land, including land used for agricultural purposes. The tower database will be accessible to all aviators who require tower location information for safety. The tower marking section of the bill is legally mandated to become law by July 15, 2017. The federal tower provisions will greatly improve safety for every aerial applicator in the U.S.
2016: NAAA marks its 50th anniversary by producing a documentary on the history of NAAA that will debut on Dec. 6 at its 50th Annual Convention & Exposition in Long Beach, Calif.
Ag Aviators Have Counted on NAAA for 50 Years; Can NAAA Count on You?
It’s typical of people in any industry to ask of their associations, “What have you done for me lately?” However, considering NAAA’s long and successful track record, a better question anyone with a stake in the agricultural aviation industry should be asking themselves is, “Where would we be without NAAA?” Kansas operator and NAAA’s 2009 president Doug Chanay has a pretty good idea. “I think if NAAA didn’t exist, we couldn’t exist,” he said.
The number of issues affecting the industry become more numerous every year, which is why it is essential that NAAA not only maintain its membership base but expand its membership ranks. Simply put, there is strength in numbers.
As Dick Reade has said about the early days of the association, “I felt that the future of the business was cooperation between everybody. Fly alone, or join each other and we’d fly together.”
How true. If you aren’t a member already, we implore you to join wings with NAAA. It only takes a few minutes to join NAAA and is one of the best investments you can make for yourself and your business. To join, call 202-546-5722 or visit AgAviation.org/membership.