Aero Club hears about crop dusting

 

                            Steve Hohl

 

An aerial applicator who once made 74 take-offs and landings in one day was guest speaker at the Sun Lakes Aero Club (SLAC) get together Monday, March 18 at the Sun Lakes Country Club.

 

Sun Lakes resident and SLAC member Steve Hohl showed photos and video  describing his 41 years of experience as an aerial applicator in Iowa.

 

He started out flying a Piper J-3 Cub that had been adapted with spray booms under the wings and a small belly tank to hold the product.  His wife was his flagger to direct his flight paths across the fields being treated.

 

Today, Hohl flies modern aircraft designed specifically for aerial application.  His aircraft are fitted with sophisticated equipment such as GPS, flow controls, and precisely calibrated spray equipment to make sure he is accurate in applying the correct amount of product to the crop.

 

He used charts to illustrate the patterns he flies during aerial application flights.  These range from race track patterns where the aircraft flies around and around over the field, to back and forth patterns featuring climbs and tight turns to return to the field.

 

He likened stops between flights to race car pit stops, with aircraft being fueled and loaded with product for the next flight.

         

The old term “crop dusting” doesn’t begin to describe the way the industry has developed since it began in 1921.  For one thing, most applications today are in liquid form, so the word “dusting” is misleading.  In addition to controlling insects, weeds and diseases that threaten crops, aerial applicators plant seed from the air into flooded rice fields, spread rye grass seed in cornfields prior to harvest to prevent soil erosion, and fertilize and add nutrients to soil for healthy crops and forests.

 

SLAC sponsors programs the third Monday of the month November through April in the Sun Lakes Country Club Mirror Room. The public is invited to attend all gatherings.  Additional information is available on the club’s web site, SunLakesAeroClub.org, or by calling Bob Walch at 895-8869 or Gary Vacin at 298-7017 or gvacin@hotmail.com.