I believe this has been one of those years that I would call “challenging” for our industry. On the one hand, the extreme droughts have caused some operations to contract their work in other areas. One of my California customers mentioned, “In all my years, this is the first time I’ve ever had to take one of our planes to another area.”
Another hurdle has been the rising gas prices. We’ve had many calls from our Chem-Man users on how to implement a fuel surcharge on their billing. There are multiple ways to do this: the tach hour, percentage of job, or charging per acre. Some add the cost to their application price.
One of the hardest things we’ve dealt with this year is the many accidents and fatalities. My husband Jerry is one of those Facebook “monitors” (he looks on my Facebook but doesn’t comment). I get a knot in my stomach whenever he looks at me with concern. He lets me know when there’s another accident. Most likely, we both know that one of my friends or a friend of a friend is involved. No matter who it is, it hurts. We all feel the pain, especially since this is a close industry.
Throughout the years (mainly as our company has grown), I’ve talked to many people that have lost loved ones, and the pain is very real; mothers, grandmothers, wives, brothers, sisters, and children – all who have lost loved ones. After I joined the Facebook groups, news became instantaneous, and I realized that the job of ag aviation was like a police officer, firefighter, or another dangerous occupation. It was needed, and the service is appreciated, but it’s also dangerous.
After talking to friends and reading comments on social media, I’ve realized that our ag aviators love their job. Knowing that it’s a dangerous job, they are loyal to their work, and it’s in their blood. With the importance of higher yields for our crops, eradicating disease, and quick results, it’s a needed service.
I often think, “Is there anything that we can do to help reduce the high rates of accidents?”. Doug Thiel, PASS presenter and also a friend, recently gave me a call. We talked about some ideas. I suggested that we contact Bob Walters with FieldWatch (who manages and operates DriftWatch) about having the ability to make “Alert” or “Comments” in specific areas where pilots needed to pay attention before they fly. Since DriftWatch interfaces with most of the major software programs, this would be a big plus for everyone. I called Bob, and he mentioned that applicators may annotate their map with comments or locations that may not be on the map. However, it would be only available where DriftWatch is available. FieldWatch is evaluating other communication tools that will assist aerial applicators
I feel that it’s essential for all states to try to get on board with this organization if this can help. Many users already find it a great tool to prevent spraying nearby sensitive areas and bees. Here are the states that are currently on board: https://driftwatch.org/map
I’ll keep you posted on the updates. Hopefully, we can make something happen that will help reduce the number of accidents and especially fatalities in our industry.
Let’s do what we can to face the challenges as they come. We can do it! Y’all fly safe.