NAAA and NAAREF’s premiere agricultural aviation program kicks off its 19th season of PAASS educational programs starting this month and continuing into 2017 at state and regional conventions around the country. NAAREF and its PAASS Program Development Committee strive to bring relevant and current topics important to agricultural aviation to attendees by presenting new subjects each season. This year is no different.
PAASS 2016–2017 Sneak Preview
The following modules are slated to be presented at the 2016–2017 PAASS season’s programs.
The Airfield Watch Module marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorism events of Sept. 11, 2001, with a look at how the aviation industry changed after 9/11. Veterans of the aerial application industry were interviewed specifically about the impact the 9/11 terrorist attacks had on agricultural aviation and the challenges operators faced in their aftermath.
Security of ag operations is vital to safeguarding crop protection chemicals and application-related equipment from misuse by international or “homegrown” terrorists. At the same time, operators have a responsibility and vested interest in protecting their businesses from thieves, vandals and natural or man-made disasters. The operators interviewed for the Airfield Watch Module will contrast operational security procedures in place 15 years ago with practices available for our use today.
The Human Factors Module focuses on “Risk Management in Ag Aviation.” According to recent NTSB statistics, approximately 80 to 85 percent of aviation accidents are caused by “pilot error.” Ag pilots understand that there is a certain amount of hazard associated with their occupation, but they must become more aware of potential risks, how to clearly identify those risks, and how to manage them successfully. In this session, NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Jennifer Rodi will assist attendees by giving them the tools to determine the risks of a flight and manage them to make the safest possible flight with the least amount of risk.
The newly renamed Environmental Professionalism Module, formerly called the Drift Mitigation Module, will present a better understanding of adjuvants used in combination with crop protection products to provide more effective control of crop pests. A growing complaint from PAASS attendees is the lack of control they have over which adjuvant or additives are added to the chemical mixture to be applied. Last year’s attendees reported that 44 percent of the adjuvant selection was made by someone else. Many of those commenting felt that the recommendation was frequently made based on the product the company sold rather than the one that works best with aerial application. In the new module, Dr. Bryan Young from Purdue University’s Department of Botany and Plant Pathology will set up the topic by explaining the properties of the various adjuvants available to the industry. Attendees then will receive a detailed look at the way these surfactants influence the spray pattern characteristics of an aerial application swath.
The Hangar Ag Flying Module for the ’16–17 program will include an analysis of ag accidents that occurred during the 2016 application season. Studying these accidents enables attendees to learn from other pilots’ experiences and increase flying safety. A disturbing trend has developed in the last three years—namely, an increase in the percentage of ag accident that result in a fatality. A brainstorming session will attempt to uncover the reasons behind this trend and possible corrective actions.
Social media posting will also be covered during Hangar Flying. We need to be mindful of what we post as individuals and as representatives of the ag aviation profession. Unprofessional posts and comments to posts perpetuate misconceptions the general public has about the ag aviation industry and also encourages new pilots to follow the behavior exhibited by more senior pilots who engage in such social media exchanges. After viewing some of the posted topics, attendees will be able to anonymously indicate, through the use of audience response pads, whether questionable information previously posted on social media platforms should have been posted. As many have learned the hard way, very little posted on the Internet is truly safe from entering the public domain.
Ample time will be allowed during the entire program for attendee discussions and sharing of experiences involving issues and practices related to PAASS participants’ own operations.
Lasting Legacy, But Work Remains
Since its debut in 1998, the primary goals of PAASS have been to reduce the number of ag aviation accidents and drift incidents through education. As statistics bear out, this approach has worked. From 1999 to 2004, the six-year period after PAASS debuted, the average rate of ag aviation accidents fell 19.3 percent compared to the six-year period before the PAASS Program launched. During that same period, the fatal accident rate decreased 4.4 percent. Overall, since the PAASS Program first hit the stage 19 years ago, ag aviation accidents per 100,000 hours flown have decreased 21.26 percent.
Drift claims decreased even more dramatically. The Association of American Pesticide Control Officials (AAPCO) completed two drift studies using information compiled from state pesticide enforcement lead agencies for the periods before and after PAASS hit the stage. The first gathered information for the three-year period from 1996 to 1998, when verified claims averaged 333 claims per year. A second survey covered the years 2002 to 2004. Average annual claims reported for this period was 247—or 26 percent fewer claims than the pre-PAASS average.
NAAA and NAAREF have been encouraged by the fact that accidents and drift claims have consistently trended downward since the inception of PAASS; however, the industry hasn’t always experienced a strait drop in accidents. As of this writing, there have been 50 accidents through September 2016—the lowest accident total on record through this point of the year, and 13 fewer accidents than the industry had through September 2015.
The bitter news is that Part 137 fatalities are on the rise, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear yet. To date, there have been 12 fatal accidents this year, compared to 8 fatalities in 2015 and 11 in 2014. Over the past 10 years the industry has averaged 7.1 fatalities per year. That’s 7.1 too many. NAAREF has been taking a closer look at what can be done to ensure that accidents, when they do happen, are more forgiving to the pilot. For example, does there need to be a greater push towards airbag seatbelts and helmets and other pilot protection measures?
Whatever mitigating factors NAAREF identifies to increase ag pilots’ chances of survivability will be incorporated into future PAASS Programs. That’s what makes attending PAASS so important for operators and pilots. There’s a reason why insurance companies award policy discounts for PAASS attendance. The decision-making lessons learned at the PAASS Program are beyond invaluable—they could save your life by keeping you out of an accident.
No matter what your experience level is in the industry, the PAASS presenters and developers are sure you will find items of interest and things you need to know at this season’s program. NAAA and NAAREF look forward to seeing you at a state or regional convention PAASS Program. Consult NAAA’s event calendar at AgAviation.org for the date and location of a PAASS Program near you.