At Night With A Satloc
I had an AgAir Update reader email me about an article he had “dug” up from 1994. Gee, that was 27 years ago! I finally found the article stored away in the archives. It brought back many memories.
In the article, I visited Custom Farm Service in Arizona to attend a Satloc training session. In addition to the school, I had the pleasure of a night spraying ride in a dual-cockpit Thrush piloted by the founder and inventor of Satloc GPS, John Goodwin.
I had operated a turbine Thrush 14 years earlier. My Thrush happened to have night-working lights, but I never really used them. An exception was returning from a late evening load and landing with them, maybe even making the last few passes with them beaming. On one occasion, I flew frost patrol overseed peaches with the Thrush in the wee early morning before daylight. I would not call that flight qualifying me as a night ag pilot since I was literally turning over my house only a couple of hundred yards from my airstrip.
I had a good idea of what to expect during that flight with John, except for one thing; a Satloc unit guided his Thrush. Also, I was unaware of the many perils that could be encountered while night flying, from invisible Arizona dust storms to hidden wires that appeared from seemingly nowhere.
From that barebones Satloc GPS unit, the GPS-guided ag-aviation industry has come a long way. In 1994, hardly any ag-aircraft used GPS. Today, it would be a rare find for an ag-plane not to have one installed in its cockpit. In the years before the 1990s, freehand swaths were commonplace. Now, I dare say that the ag-plane is virtually grounded when the GPS unit fails.
Instead of a basic swath guidance device of the early model Satlocs, in 2022, the units have become highly sophisticated. Swath guidance is only the basis of the machine. Its capabilities possibly have expanded beyond John Goodwin’s wildest dreams. But maybe not; John is a pretty smart fellow.
As I finish this editorial, I am in a hotel room for the Mississippi convention. Last week I attended the Louisiana convention in Lake Charles. Graham and I were scheduled to attend the Texas and Arkansas conventions, but lousy luck prevailed, and numerous circumstances caused us to miss these two shows. Maybe our luck will improve for the remaining upcoming conventions. We hope to see ya there!
Until next month, Keep Turning…