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2018 – A year in review


With each December edition, AgAir Update traditionally publishes a recap of the previous 11 editions for the current year. The January edition of 2018 features a family-run company that has been flying ag for almost 70 years in DeWitt, Arkansas. It all started with Calvin “Cal” Aufderheide in 1947 and today the company is run by third generation grandson Matthew Aufderheide and Lonnie Kagebein, who is married to Matthew’s mother, Margo. Margo works at the flying service everyday doing everything, except fly! 


The February edition is all about pattern testing in Australia. American Alan Corr, an aerial spray analyst, and his son, Carson, made the trip there to help Australian ag-operators maximize the spray efficiency of their ag-aircraft. Their time in Australia lasted for five weeks, travelled 40,000 miles, tested 30 ag-aircraft that completed over 300 passes and used over 10 miles of testing string!


Each quarterly edition of AgAir Update, starting in March, brings readers the AirFire & Forestry section. Ironically, AgAir Update’s March edition finds itself featuring another Australian company, Aerotech Australasia, owned and operated by Sam and Jessica McCabe. The 770 Fire Angel is a modified 710P Thrush. Powered by a PT6A-67 engine, the 770 nomenclature comes from the addition of Transland’s adapter box and fire door. Aerotech Australasia also has a fleet of 12 Air Tractors. 


Staying below the equator and crossing oceans from Australia to Brazil, AgAir Update highlights a Brazilian operator that uses the AT-401B and the Brazilian manufactured Ipanema by Embraer in its April edition. Produtiva AeroAgricola is different from most Brazilian ag-operations, as there are very few radial engine-powered ag-planes in Brazil, which minimizes local support of the engine. However, Produtiva AeroAgricola has found a way to improve the horsepower and extend the life of the engine by converting it from av-gas to ethanol for its fuel. Ethanol is less expensive than av-gas and readily available. The majority of the Lycoming IO-540 powered Ipanemas are set up to burn ethanol. With the ethanol-powered AT-402B, the aircraft is very efficient. However, Productiva AeroAgricola still expressed a desire to one day operate a turbine-powered ag-plane. 


“Back in the USA”, like Chuck Berry (1959) used to sing, AgAir Update’s May cover story is about a Louisiana operator who replaced several turbine-powered Ag-Cats with three of the latest model Air Tractor, the 502XP.  Dwayne O’Brien of O’Brien Flying Service made the decision to deviate from the tried and true Ag-Cat that O’Brien Flying Service’s founder, Zoren O’Brien, favored. This was primarily because of the shortage of nearly new B-Model Ag-Cats.  


AgAir Update’s second AirFire & Forestry section for 2018 tells of a ‘Change in the Air’ with a JUNE cover story about Dauntless Air. Recently acquired and renamed Aero Spray to Dauntless Air, Brett L’Esperance takes the rebranded company to become the country’s largest Fire Boss operator. However, what is really important about Dauntless Air is its outlook on the future of SEAT operations and how vital, properly-run, SEATs can be in wildland firefighting. Summarized, there would be less problems with out-of-control fires (megafires) and less property and life losses, if wildland fires were caught at the very early stages with SEAT aircraft.  


With the July edition, AgAir Update finds itself in Nebraska visiting longtime operator and friend, Mike Sides of Sides Aerial Applications. Operating two TPE-331 Thrushes and two TPE-331 Pawnee Braves, Mike Sides says, “I like the Garrett engine!” After more than 45 years in business, Mike’s son, Joe, is at his side with his own company, Sides Aviation. However, they actually operate like one company with two separate bases in Nebraska.  


Every ag-pilot knows the new ag-plane is fully test-flown by the factory before it is delivered to its new owner. The behind-the-scenes test pilots featured in the August edition of AgAir Update tell their story. It is interesting to learn how these fantastic aircraft each have their own personality, even though each model is basically manufactured exactly alike. For that reason, it is imperative a highly experienced test pilot fly each one and conduct a barrage of tests that has to be checked off before delivery. 


With its third AirFire & Forestry section in the September edition of AgAir Update, the cover ‘finds’ itself following Portuguese Fire Bosses to Sweden to fight fires there. It is not normal for Sweden to have devastating wildfires and the country is caught off-guard. Calling for international help, highly trained and experienced Portuguese Fire Boss pilots launch to the aid of their northern Swedish neighbors.  


Just when today’s modern ag-operator believes the company is utilizing the most technological advanced spray equipment, along comes a novel, seemingly, idea for a spray boom set up. In the October edition, an Israeli company, after two years of research, teams up with Brazilian ag-operators and spray analysts to evaluate their rendition of Sliders. These are ‘plates’ positioned in front of hydraulic-type spray nozzles that deflect slipstream air before it reaches the tip of the nozzle. ‘Seemingly’ novel is debunked when AgAir Update reader John Goodwin (Satloc fame) sends AgAir Update photos of a similar set-up from the 1990s made by Custom Farm Service when he was the manager of the company. 


It is logical that an aircraft only being used approximately half of the time available during the season, daylight time, night flight would an attractive addition to increasing the productivity of the aircraft. Only in recent times has this been a viable endeavor, except in the very low humidity areas of California and Arizona. There, night flying is more the rule, than the exception. Now, other parts of the country are experimenting, successfully, with night flight operations, but are using Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) manufactured by Aviation Specialties Unlimited. The November edition is about how Jim Perrin, AgriCair, of Wisconsin extends his flight time into the night. 





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