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ngythanh 08-30-2006 03:58 AM

Crop dusters
 
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Crop dusters

On August 31, 1921, a surplus WW I Curtiss JN-6H piloted by Lt. John A. Macready, took off from McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio to attack a new enemy – the Catalpa sphinx moth. To the cheers of an enthusiastic group of spectators, Macready dumped a load of powered lead arsenate from a makeshift metal hopper attached to the Jenny's fuselage onto an orchard being defoliated by the insects. A subsequent inspection soon revealed that the pesky moths had been virtually wiped out by the aerial assault and a new practical application for the airplane was born — crop dusting.

As airplane design matured, the business of crop-dusting — or “aerial application,” the preferred professional term — also became more sophisticated. Farmers became increasingly aware of, and dependent upon, crop-dusting aircraft to efficiently fertilize their crops and dispense chemical pesticides on destructive pests.

The piloting skills required for crop dusting were usually passed along in informal flight sessions, treated as more of an art form than the sophisticated science that it was. Pilots were taught how to fly low, with their wheels almost touching the crops, as a method to reduce “chemical drift” — fertilizer or pesticides straying into the wrong areas. Obstacles seemed to await them at every turn. Crop dusters were always clipping their tails on standpipes (tall, tower-like structures used to store water in rural communities), hitting fence posts or pulling up without seeing a string of electric or telephone wires — unseen dangers that often meant injury or death to the pilot.

Crop-duster pilots often joked that they were immune from mosquito bites following an aerial application of pesticides. (<a href="http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/GENERAL_AVIATION/dusting/GA16.htm">Source</a>)


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