I rolled out of the rack at the crack of noon, opened the curtains to allow the glare of an unsympathetic sun singe my bleary eyes. My morning routine normally occurs in the afternoon this time of year. It’s never pleasant. I miss those bright, bushy tailed days of a long ago misspent youth. If it weren’t for the aches and pains I’d think there was something wrong. The good thing about flying nights is that you can believe you always get home “early”. Early in the morning that is.
The busy season has indeed been busy. I go to sleep with the sound of 2,000 RPMs still humming in my head. I’m sure I’m not the only one who startle themselves awake dreaming of wires and shuddering controls. I’ve been tempted to snort a bar a soap to get all those crop duster smells out of my sinuses. I sometimes wonder if the mode of action of some of our products is simply the smell. There ought to be an insecticide called, ‘Stink ‘em to death’.
Along with the thousands of acres of spraying, we’re slinging sulphur dust by the ton. The downwind area of the Central Valley becomes obscured in a haze of dust. The regular dirt dust doesn’t seem to mind the competition. It sure didn’t need the help though. I have a frightening idea of some innocent irrigator guy firing up a stogie and igniting a mile wide flash. POOF! Reminds me of something you might see on a Road Runner cartoon. If anything, it would be something different for the nightly news.
The Valley enjoyed a sparse bit of rain that lasted much too briefly. Señor El Nino has some explaining to do. Slacker. Fortunately our farmers are smarter than the brainiacs in Sacramento and are holding all the water they can fit into the canals and basins. Every nook, cranny and gully is being used to store as much water as can be scooped from the wasteful flushing into the delta smelt abyss. A bowl of water out here is more valuable than a gallon of whiskey. There’s probably more of the latter available these days. That’s a downright shame. Depending on your perspective, of course. It’s fairly obvious the whiskey flows well for the politicians. They must be drunk. Or something… California is its own worst enemy. Those of us who are holding out for sanity are rapidly approaching extinction. Somebody has to be here to keep the flame alive though. We’re running out of kindling. There just ain’t enough Okies left here.
As I hammer this article together today, the Midwest corn run is well underway. Pilots from all over the country converging on the vast American plains. Where once the buffalo roamed now stands millions of acres corn. Southern boys venturing into Yankee territory and our Yankee brothers tolerating them. I’m not sure who is getting the better end of the deal. Ya’ll need to make sure you keep the partying under control. You can’t soar with the eagles if you’re hooting with the owls! A hangover has no place in an airplane. It’s eight hours bottle to throttle, not eight inches. I know the corn run can be a maddening pace and the airspace gets crowded. Use your radios! Coordinate with others and keep your head outside the cockpit.
Speaking of radios, If you don’t have a radio in your airplane then you are flying a partially airworthy machine. In this day and age, there is no excuse for not having the ability to openly communicate. Cell phones are limited to the folks on your contacts list. The guy from Arkansas flying in Illinois may not have the number for the guy from Florida flying a half mile away. State organizations should address this issue at their meetings. Find a VHF frequency and pass it around. If you’re working from a public airport a VHF radio is a must. I know the regulations say it’s not required in a non towered airport. It is required however, by a safety conscious, professional aviator. The G.A. community has only a vague idea at best of how we operate. Keeping the weekend pilot in mind is something we have to do when we are in their neighborhood. The low time pilot in his Cessna 172 is more often than not doing his level best just to keep up with the airplane much less staying ahead of it. A crop duster zooming in and out or suddenly appearing in the pattern below him could be the catalyst for an accident. Our industry suffers enough from a poor reputation. Talking on the radio and communicating goes a long way in preventing bad press. Dealing with the public is a pain in the butt, but if you’re working from a public airport then you’ll have the public to deal with one way or another. Why ruin another person’s day at the airport? We are all ambassadors in some respect; represent us well.
The season continues. The corn will see added bushels, the cotton will flourish, the soybeans will do whatever soybeans do and ag pilots will take a paycheck home. A friend recently posted on social media, “The most important thing I do every day is go home.” The truest words I’ve read since the Gospel of John. Going home is our priority. Above and beyond any other consideration is the precious responsibility we have to our loved ones to be there at the end of the day. Always keep that in mind no matter where you are or what you are doing. That corner under the wires can stay there. A few more minutes circling the field identifying obstacles is time well spent. Plan an after season vacation with your sweetheart and make sure you’re there to do it. God Bless you all. Fly well and stay safe!