NAAA celebrated the achievements of eight deserving individuals at the Excellence in Ag Aviation Banquet Dec. 9, the final event of the 2021 Ag Aviation Expo in Savannah, Georgia. The recipients of the 2021 NAAA Awards were honored for their commitment to their communities, safety and the betterment of the agricultural aviation industry.
2021 Zoren and Joan O’Brien Memorial Outstanding Service Award
Damon Reabe, Dairyland Aviation, Waupun, Wisconsin
The Zoren and Joan O’Brien Memorial Outstanding Service Award is presented to an individual for exceptional service to the agricultural aviation industry and the National Agricultural Aviation Association. Two recipients received this award in 2021. Damon Reabe of Waupun, Wisconsin, is one, and Rusty Lindeman of D’Hanis, Texas, received the other award.
Damon is NAAA’s go-to guy for explaining even the most complicated of aerial application topics. It seems he is always educating someone about aerial application, be it his insurance underwriter, a farmer, a chemical registrant or state or federal pesticide regulator.
Damon chairs the NAAA Government Relations Committee and is the vice chair of the Precision Agriculture Committee. He serves on NAAA’s CAM 8 ad hoc committee and the knowledge and skills ad hoc committee, which is developing new airman certification standards for Part 137 pilots. Damon also is NAAA’s representative on the Pesticide Policy Dialogue Committee, an influential federal advisory committee to the EPA comprised of stakeholders involved in pesticides ranging from activists to academia to applicators to regulators to farmers.
As a PAASS presenter, he travels to several state conventions teaching aerial applicators how to be safer and better environmental stewards. The industry is better off because of Damon’s willingness to commit his time and talents to so many vital issues affecting aerial applicators.
2021 Zoren and Joan O’Brien Memorial Outstanding Service Award
Rusty Lindeman, Rusty’s Flying Service, D’Hanis, Texas
Rusty Lindeman started Rusty’s Flying Service in 1992. Eight years ago, he jumped at a golden opportunity to help the public understand how aerial applicators help produce a safe, abundant and affordable food supply.
In 2013, Disney approached Air Tractor about an airplane project to promote its soon-to-premiere movie, Planes. Its protagonist was a cartoon crop dusting airplane named Dusty Crophopper. Air Tractor executives pitched the project to Rusty. He had a spare AT-301 and agreed to spearhead the effort of creating the live version of Dusty Crophopper, starting with converting it from a radial model to a turbine-powered AT-400A. The team that installed the turbine engine conversion and repaired, sanded and painted all the skin completed everything in just six weeks.
Rusty spent the better part of two months over the summer of 2013 performing in five air shows throughout North America as the live-action version of Dusty Crophopper to promote Planes’ theatrical release. Besides plugging the movie, the script for Rusty’s air show performances extolled the performance capabilities of ag aircraft and the benefits of agricultural aviation.
The promotional campaign and Planes movie, with its positive portrayal of crop duster planes, were huge successes. So much so that Disney released a sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue, the next summer. During their theatrical runs, the two films, combined, earned almost $180 million domestically and nearly $400 million worldwide. Today the Planes movies are available on demand through streaming platforms like Disney+.
Fast-forward to 2021 and NAAA’s celebration of the 100th anniversary of the aerial application industry. After months of discussion, NAAA successfully mediated an agreement with Rusty and Lea Lindeman, Disney and the Smithsonian Institution to donate the fully functional Dusty Crophopper plane to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
To mark the industry’s centennial on August 3, 2021, Rusty flew his “Dusty” plane from Texas to the Washington, D.C., area to deliver Dusty to his new home at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum. The Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, is the second-most-popular aviation museum in the world after the main National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and receives more than 1.6 million attendees per year.
Considering everything Rusty has done to bring Dusty Crophopper to life and to make sure this wonderful public representation of the industry lives into perpetuity, NAAA’s Zoren and Joan O’Brien Memorial Outstanding Service Award is well-deserved.
2021 Allied Industry Individual Award
Terry Humphrey, Thrush Aircraft, Albany, Georgia
The Allied Industry Individual Award is presented to individuals whose efforts have contributed significantly to the allied industry and the aerial application industry.
NAAA’s 2021 recipient, Terry Humphrey has devoted himself to agricultural aviation for over 40 years. He is officially the manager of flight operations at Thrush Aircraft, but that title doesn’t begin to cover all the roles he has filled throughout this career. Whether he was spraying in another country, abroad for a month training pilots in Australia, or exhibiting at conventions, Terry has given his all to agricultural aviation.
He was the first ag pilot to perform in an ag plane at EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 2013. For NAAA’s centennial festivities at AirVenture 2021 in July, Terry showed off his flying skills to thousands of aviation enthusiasts once again while flying in concert with Arkansas operator Michael Hutchins. Together, the dynamic air show performers wowed tens of thousands of onlookers with their high-speed, low-flying aerial application maneuvers.
When he wasn’t performing, Terry met with attendees and fielded questions on a range of aerial application topics at NAAA’s booth and next to the Thrush 510P on static display.
Terry makes sure every pilot he trains is proficient, educated and most important—safe. He has spent countless hours in the back seat of a Thrush, teaching young and older pilots from around the world the skills necessary to support farmers, educate the public and feed the world.
NAAA honored Terry with the 2021 Allied Industry Individual Award for his proven commitment and sincere dedication to farmers, pilots, operators.
2021 John Robert Horne Memorial Award
Mikel Hofer, Doland Aerial Spraying, Doland, South Dakota
The John Robert Horne Memorial Award is presented to a pilot with five or fewer years of experience as an aerial applicator who has an exemplary safety record and has contributed to the safety of the industry.
NAAA’s 2021 recipient, Mikel Hofer, has flown five accident-free years for Doland Aerial Spraying out of Doland, South Dakota, which until Mikel came aboard was a one-man, one-aircraft operation run by his father, Perry Hofer.
Mikel graduated from South Dakota State University with an agronomy major in 2014. That following fall he enrolled in the aviation maintenance program at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, South Dakota, and went on to graduate as an FAA-certified Airframe and Powerplant mechanic, also known as an A&P mechanic. He later added to his maintenance credentials by earning his Inspection Authorization, or IA, certificate.
Meanwhile, Mikel earned his commercial pilot’s certificate in 2015 with an eye on becoming an ag pilot. Since Doland Aerial Spraying only had one aircraft at the time—a 525-gallon S2R Thrush that Perry flew—the Hofer men decided to rebuild a Weatherly 620A with a Pratt & Whitney R-985 piston engine for Mikel to begin his agricultural aviation career in. He mostly performs local aerial application work in South Dakota and performs all of Doland Aerial’s aircraft maintenance in-house.
Mikel’s work in and around ag aircraft is augmented by his work outside it to serve the industry and grow as an ag pilot. He is an elected director on the South Dakota Aviation Association’s board of directors and quickly established himself as a fundamental contributor on NAAA’s CAM 8 subcommittee, due to his knowledge and comprehension of the CAM 8 issue.
Mikel has been a strategic planner for three Operation S.A.F.E clinics in South Dakota. He also annually attends the PAASS Program, the Tri-State convention put on by the North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota associations, and NAAA’s convention, where he attends the Aerial Application Technology Research Session and other educational sessions to expand his knowledge.
The future looks bright for NAAA’s newest John Robert Horne Memorial recipient.
2021 Opal & Bill Binnion Memorial Award
Glenn Martin, Helicopter Applicators Inc., Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
The Opal & Bill Binnion Memorial Award is presented to individuals who have contributed to NAAA’s efforts to educate the public about aerial application. NAAA’s 2021 recipient, Glenn Martin, has been a pillar of the ag aviation community and a model applicator for decades.
In 1974, Glenn and a partner founded Helicopters Applicators Inc. with a Bell 47 and a nurse truck. HAI grew and grew over the years to the point that it outgrew its original facilities in Frederick, Maryland, and moved to a bigger facility in Gettysburg in 1998. Today HAI has 10 spray aircraft and four heavy-lift aircraft for fire suppression and heavy-lift missions.
Glenn has filled many roles within the Northeast Agricultural Aviation Association, from serving as president to running and coordinating the Northeast association’s annual conference.
Glenn continues to support the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) and the Northeast AAA wholeheartedly. Notably, he has provided a helicopter and crew for an agriculture-equipment field day put on to educate federal employees that NAAA has co-hosted three times since 2016. These one-day events are designed to educate staff from the EPA, the USDA, and other federal-sector employees about modern agriculture equipment. HAI will also be bringing a Jet Ranger helicopter with booms to display at the National Ag Day celebration on the National Mall in Washington in March.
Closer to home, Glenn gives back to his community and military brethren by participating in Memorial Day parades in Gettysburg and other nearby towns. He does that by providing a restored, non-flyable Huey adorned with decals of the five service branches of the U.S. military and a flag honoring veterans of the Vietnam War to these parades. The Huey procession has been stirring the hearts of armed service members and military veterans since 2016 and has become a Memorial Day tradition for Glenn and his employees.
Glenn Martin epitomizes what the Opal & Bill Binnion Memorial Award is all about. He is a great advocate and an even better friend to the aerial application industry.
2021 Delta Air Lines “Puffer” Award
Troy Reabe, Reabe Design LLC, De Pere, Wisconsin
The Delta Air Lines “Puffer” Award is presented to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the design of agricultural aircraft and/or related equipment.
Troy Reabe grew up in the ag aviation industry in central Wisconsin, where he got hooked on aviation at a young age. While in school, he worked at Reabe Spraying Service, and it was clear that he had a gift for solving problems and working tirelessly to reach goals.
Troy graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics, physics, and mechanical engineering. His engineering career began in 2007 in heavy industry, building complex production lines. His first job did not land him in aviation — his passion — but he was exposed to innovative industrial technologies that would be used later in his first product, the Reabe Quantity Gauge.
Troy and his father, Jeff Reabe, knew the ag aviation industry needed a solution to accurately measure hopper quantity, so Troy started Reabe Design as a side business to develop that solution in 2010. After years of testing and improving, the patented Reabe Hopper Quantity Gauge was born. Quickly, it became the industry standard for hopper quantity measurement.
Troy’s side business eventually grew into a full-time job, and he began working for himself at the end of 2017. By then, a new problem had been brought to his attention: the need for an automatic gate system that was simple, reliable and lighter weight than hydraulic gates.
Troy developed the Reabe Smart Gate, a computer-controlled, electrically powered dry gate system with manual override. Adding only 30 pounds to the airplane, it offers more features with fewer parts. The significant weight savings of the Reabe Smart Gate are critical since newer aircraft are being certified with less reference to CAM 8. As a result, the weight of any added equipment takes on greater significance. Specifically, any add-ons that increase the empty weight of the aircraft result in a direct payload decrease.
Products that decrease the weight of aircraft, limit pilot distractions, reduce downtime for system repairs, and deliver accurate product on the field are crucial for the ag aviation industry. The Reabe Smart Gate was designed with these goals in mind.
Considering Troy’s innovative equipment designs, the Delta Air Lines “Puffer” Award is well-deserved.
2021 Related Industry Award
Eric Rojek, Covington Aircraft Engines, Leesburg, Georgia
The Related Industry Award recognizes outstanding contributions by an allied industry member and their company. Eric Rojek fully supports NAAA and the National Agricultural Aviation Research and Education Foundation (NAAREF) and has for years, dating back to his time as the head of sales and marketing at Thrush Aircraft, where he oversaw Thrush’s global marketing strategy, communications, brand positioning and sales efforts. He joined Covington Aircraft as a sales manager in 2020 and is responsible for Covington’s sales efforts on the east coast of the U.S. while assisting marketing expansion projects.
Eric has served on various NAAA and NAAREF committees, including as NAAREF’s treasurer this year. He also currently serves as the Propulsion Division Director on NAAA’s board after serving as NAAA’s Airframe Director while at Thrush.
Eric participates enthusiastically and actively — be it at NAAA and NAAREF’s meetings, when he’s interacting with his customers, or when he’s promoting the industry to the media. His marketing training and expertise make him an excellent spokesperson. He also provides solid input on safety, flight and technical matters, helping members become smarter, better and safer operators as new technologies grow.
NAAA awarded the Related Industry Award to Eric for his unceasing support of the industry.
2021 Evans-Christopher Operation S.A.F.E. Award
Scott Bretthauer, NAAA, Champaign, Illinois
The Evans-Christopher Operation S.A.F.E. Award acknowledges outstanding contributions to NAAREF’s Operation S.A.F.E. program. One would be hard-pressed to find someone more dedicated to serving ag pilots and the aerial application industry than Scott Bretthauer.
While in graduate school, Scott’s ag background steered him into a position with the pesticide applicator training program at the University of Illinois. It was in this role that he first attended Operation S.A.F.E. Analyst training in 2003. Scott quickly immersed himself in aircraft pattern testing. By 2010 he was conducting fly-ins across the country and had established himself as one of the industry’s foremost Operation S.A.F.E. Analysts.
Scott constantly seeks to improve and optimize his trade. For example, he introduced the use of remote-triggered photography at Operation S.A.F.E. events. By positioning a camera directly in the flight path, he is able to acquire an image as the aircraft crosses the flight line. These photo finishes enable the analyst to subjectively assess the spray pattern and use it as a reference when evaluating the string and card data. Scott also pioneered using a lidar sensor with custom software to automatically acquire and record aircraft height.
While Scott’s technical contributions to Operation S.A.F.E. are commendable, his analytical contributions are his true calling card. He will not hesitate to go over hundreds of S.A.F.E. printouts with applicators. Whether it is a rookie or a veteran pilot, Scott explains each detail and discusses any concerns he or the pilot has until they are both satisfied.
For those reasons and more, Scott is very deserving of the 2021 Evans-Christopher Operation S.A.F.E. Award.
NAAA congratulates all its honorees. If the 2021 NAAA Award recipients’ stories inspired you, consider nominating someone for the 2022 NAAA Awards. The awards nomination form is available on NAAA’s website at AgAviation.org/awards.