The National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) is rapidly approaching the apex of a major publicity campaign to share the agricultural aviation industry’s history with the public. One hundred years ago, on Aug. 3, 1921, researchers desperate for a way to prevent sphinx moth caterpillars from ravaging the valuable Catalpa tree crop came up with a novel approach. What if the caterpillars could be controlled with insecticide dust released from an airplane?
Far-fetched as it was in 1921, when farmers applied insecticides by hand and aviation was still in its infancy, the idea worked. In an experimental flight conceived by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, U.S. Army test pilot Lt. John Macready applied lead arsenate dust from a World War I surplus biplane over a Troy, Ohio, Catalpa grove. The insect pests were successfully dispatched, the trees grown for use as telegraph poles and fenceposts were saved, and a practice now vital to crop production, wildfire fighting and mosquito control was born.
NAAA is using all types of media to educate the public about the industry’s 100th anniversary and the essential role aerial applicators continue to play for farmers, foresters and society today. Storytelling vehicles include three different length video documentaries, a comprehensive book on the industry’s history, social, print, trade and news media releases and a dedicated website, AgAviation100.com, to share the 10-decade story of ag aviation.
If you are active in the world of aerial application—whether as an operator, pilot, crew member, service-parts-equipment provider or related tangentially to the industry in another way—don’t be a static audience member during this epic centennial event. Use this opportunity to spread the gospel of agricultural aviation in your market. Inform your local television stations, newspapers and radio stations about ag aviation’s 100th anniversary, even if it is by simply directing them to AgAviation100.com. On that site, there is a “Get Involved” tab with a draft press release about the centennial that discusses the importance of the industry, its progressive evolution and directs readers to the AgAviation100.com website. Feel free to cater that press release to your own operation and experience and send it to your local news outlets.
Members of NAAA can also brush up on the importance of ag aviation, environmental safety safeguards that are common practice today and other industry talking points on NAAA’s media relations kit webpage at AgAviation.org/naaamediarelationskit.
The media relations kit also includes suggestions on how to convey your message to the media and public when espousing ag aviation’s significance. If you don’t feel comfortable communicating directly, NAAA staff and an assortment of ag aviation ambassadors can be used as understudies and take over that role. The important thing is to make sure the public and news media in your area are informed of ag aviation’s centennial milestone to maximize the value of this pivotal once-in-a-lifetime event.
Every single contributor involved in agricultural aviation has a great story to tell about this industry. Whether it is how you got into the industry; the training that fine-tuned your craft as an aerial applicator; how agricultural aviation provides to local employment and the local economy; or how after five generations, the technology is such that we produce more per acre than ever—these are all compelling story angles to public audiences.
The agricultural aviation industry has a great story that needs to be told. It also has a bright future that needs to be preserved. It’s up to all of us to burnish the industry’s remarkable legacy and continue to add to it collectively.