| The term “crop duster” has certainly been highlighted in the news lately. In the proud 81 year old history of this industry, never has the public been more keenly aware of our existence. Here are a few facts about the industry and why we firmly believe fear of our aircraft is without justification.
Q: What is a crop duster?
A: It is a somewhat outdated term used to describe either an aircraft used in agricultural aviation or the pilot who flies that aircraft. It is outdated because, although agricultural products were available only in a “dust” form over half a century ago, virtually all products are applied today as a liquid, which is sprayed. Yesterday’s crop dusters are today’s aerial applicators or ag pilots, but they all mean the same thing.
Q: How many crop dusters are out there?
A: There are approximately 2400 companies in the U.S. certified by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Both airplanes and helicopters are used in the industry, and there are about 5,000 aircraft with approximately that many trained pilots.
Q: Who regulates crop dusting activities?
A: Almost everybody. Individual states regulate the pesticide application certification and certain loading and storage containment requirements. The federal agencies include FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), FDA Food and Drug Administration), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), etc.
Q: Can an ag aircraft be used to spread Anthrax?
A: No. Absolutely not. Without being overly technical, anthrax has to be delivered in a droplet size of 1-2 microns. It is impossible for dispersal equipment on crop dusters to produce droplets that small. Most aerial applications produce droplets of about 400 microns.
Q: Can ag aircraft be hijacked and used as a missile like they did on September 11?
A: Virtually all ag aircraft are single seat aircraft, so hijacking is out of the question. A handful of ag aircraft have two seats and these are used for flight training and also for certain drug eradication programs in other countries.
Q: How are agricultural chemical products regulated?
A: Agricultural chemical products are regulated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency.) Years of testing go into every product before it is registered and legal to use in the U.S. Manufacture and distribution of the products is carried out in a manner similar to pharmaceutical drugs, with security and stringent controls at every level.
Q: Are crop dusters really necessary?
A: The aerial application industry in the U.S. is an integral part of American agriculture. Without these aircraft available as tools in food production, one third of Americans would go to bed hungry. Without crop dusters to treat cotton, yields would be substantially reduced and you would be forced to pay an exorbitant price for a simple cotton T-shirt. You may not even see agricultural aircraft in your part of the country, but you would surely be affected if they weren’t allowed to fly.
Q: How can I learn more about the crop dusting industry?
A: Check out these websites: www.agairupdate.com and www.agaviation.org