NAAA - A Century of Agricultural Aviation

June 23, 2021

In 1921, the Ohio Department of Agriculture directed a U.S. army pilot to fly a modified Curtiss JN-6 to spread lead arsenate dust over catalpa trees to kill sphinx moth larvae. At such large numbers, these larvae grow up to defoliate entire trees. One hundred years after that experimental flight, and since its inception in 1966, the National AgriculturalAviation Association (NAAA) continues to make sure aviation remains a critical component of agriculture.

Small businesses and pilots use aircraft to help farmers produce a safe, affordable, and abundant supply of food, fibre, and bioenergy because it’s a more effective and efficient method when applying crop-producing products. At 140 miles/hour, aerial applicators can cover a lot of ground quickly. In fact, helicopters and airplanes can accomplish three times more application work, at a minimum, than any other method.

Although aerial application accounts for almost one-third of the delivery of crop production products, such as herbicides, insecticides, and fertiliser, aerial application serves many more functions. Aerial application is used to fight forest and grassland fires, feed fish, seed rice and wheat, and control disease-carrying pests.

Founded in 1966 in Washington, DC, but currently based in Alexandria, Virginia, NAAA has spent decades supporting this industry and the interests of the small businesses and pilots that make it up.

Pictured: Etienne Dormoy and John Macready in front of the first crop duster

As the ‘voice of the aerial application industry,’ NAAA is committed to creating a positive business climate, promoting safety and professionalism, improving the industry’s public image, and influencing public policy to benefit aerial application.

“NAAA works to educate policymakers and affect congressional and federal agency decisions to ensure federal policies for pest control, plant health, environmental protection, and vector control pertaining to pesticide and fertiliser use take into account the best available science, professional techniques, and modern application technologies used by the aerial application industry; as well as the benefits aerial application provides agriculture and the environment,” states Andrew Moore, CEO of the National AgriculturalAviation Association (NAAA). 

There are 3,400 professional aerial application operators and pilots and 1,560 agricultural aviation businesses in the U.S. today. NAAA represents the industry as a whole advocating to public policy makers and the media the importance and technological progressiveness of the industry, communicating and educating the industry about augmenting aviation safety, and environmental professionalism.

NAAA’s sister organisation, the NationalAgricultural Aviation Research and Education Foundation (NAAREF), provides research and educational programmes focused on enhancing the efficacy, security, and safety of aerial application.

Nearly 1,800 ag pilots across the U.S. andCanada attend the annual Professional Aerial Applicators’ Support System(PAASS) program, created to reduce aviation accidents and drift incidents associated with the aerial application of crop protection products. Since the PAASS programme started in 1998, drift complaints decreased by 25.8% and agricultural aviation accidents decreased by 25.1%. 

Pictured: Thrush 510G spraying crop

By 2050, the world will have 9.7 billion people according to the U.N.  That is 2.2billion more mouths to feed, which means farmers will have to produce 70% more calories on less land and water than they have today. As a critical method for high-yield agriculture, the role aerial application will play in the future of farming is indisputable.

“The last century brought almost unimaginable innovation and technological advancement in agricultural production as a whole,” notes Moore. “And no segment of agriculture illustrates that warp-speed progress more than how far we’ve come in aerial application. The industry will continue to advance into the future.”

In December, NAAA will host its annual AgAviation Expo, which sees well over 1,600 attendees and 150 agricultural aviation exhibiting companies that support the industry at their premier trade show, with speakers, events, and several educational and NAAREF safety sessions.

With the 100th anniversary of the industry and a return to the popular destination Savannah, Georgia, USA, the celebration at NAAA’s 2021 Ag Aviation Expo is not one to miss!

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