Thoughts of an Insecure Crop Dusting Pilot Also Cursed With Trust Issues
"Hello, cotton farmers.
You remember me. I stand for one thing and one thing only:
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Crop dusting: a brief history
With the entrance of new chemicals introduced on the market to kill insects and weeds, farmers began looking for the best way to apply them. An industry that had been around for two decades got a big boost during the post-war period – crop dusting. And because the crop dusting pilots pulled off amazing feats of aerial bravery while facing death every day, the "dusters" gained a lasting measure of fame and popular romance.
The industry – today known as aerial application – began in 1921 when a surplus World War I Curtis Jenny airplane took to the air from a field near Dayton, Ohio to help an apple farmer whose orchard was being attacked by Catalpa sphinx moths. The Jenny had been rigged with a makeshift metal hopper and a distribution device. The pilot came in low and dusted the orchard with powdered lead arsenate, the best insecticide available at the time. The moths were killed and an industry was born.
News spread and other farmers sought local pilots when they faced insect invasions. Pilots would teach other "dusters" the art of dropping down on a field, fly with their wheels almost touching the crops to reduce "chemical drift" and then pull up sharply at the end of the field. The trick was to know where obstacles like power lines, fence posts and other obstacles were located. Hitting an obstacle could kill you. And more than one pilot was responsible for killing the power to a nearby town or rural area by snagging the power lines with his or her tail hook. Popularity mixed with (some) resentment at times.
Crop dusting spread, no pun intended
Not just to isolated, small orchards, but not long after 1921 and with the crop dusting industry growing with each planting season, research scientists hit upon a poison that would kill the boldest boll weevil as well as other pests that might devour a farmer's livelihood; his cotton patches.
Soon, farmers were putting local crop dusters under contract for years at a time to come without calling to dust the farmer's crops who held the contract. This was a prosperous marriage of goods and needed-service.
Welcome to this "Special Look" from the cockpit of a crop dusting plane
I am not ashamed to confess
"I" do not claim to know that much in life, but "this" I do know: I was not cut out to be a crop duster. I have bad nerves, a weak stomach, and hate going so fast in a downward spiral that my trust quickly vanishes for the machine
This iconic film has a crop duster in one scene
Have you ever thought
What if one day an unemployed airplane pilot landed a job dusting crops for this huge "aerial application" company, but he did not reveal that he was an insecure man with trust issues to the human resources manager who hired him?
What would his thoughts be as he took to the skies loaded with hundreds of pounds of lethal insecticide to give the pests who eat crops the "what for?"
- "Did I fill the tank of this plane? Or did "Buckley," my coworker who has shown up for work a a few times this week a bit hung-over?"
- "Oh my stars! What if "Buckley" really "pulled a drunk" last night and totally forgot to fill the fuel tank? I won't live to get back to chew his butt out for such a stupid error."
- "I do hope that "Max," "Bud," and "Choo Choo," the veteran airplane mechanics, did a thorough job of checking my engine before I took off?"
- "Goodness gracious! What was that rattling noise?" Come to think of it. I didn't see those three somewhat off-the-wall airplane mechanics when I climbed into this cockpit!"
- "Thank God for my radio. Whew! I worry too much. I will just check back in with my boss. Uh, "Charlie One Dog Trot to Thor Nine. Over. Uhhh, "Charlie One Dog Trot to Thor Nine. Over! I said over! Hey, "Bill," are you even near the radio in the tower?"
- "Just how far is this "Johnson Apple Farm? And why is my fuel gauge dancing from "E" to "1/2?"
- "I need to settle down. I can always parachute out if my fuel runs out. Oh my stars! Where is my parachute? I remember setting it on the tool box of "Larry Pickford's" truck . . .uh, oh!"
- "If I had told that "Mr. Sterns," who hired me, the truth about my insecurities and fear of heights, would I have been hired? I think not. My wife and three kids would be starving by now. Why didn't I take that part-time job my wife's brother, "Jack," told me about. Helping my town's Street Department with cleaning up the road kill? At least I would be on the ground."
- "Why did I enlist in the Air Force years ago?"
- "Just what is that rattling that is coming directly from the engine?"
- "Is one of my propeller blades about to fall off?"
- "Where is that map? That apple company should be near about now. Oh, my God! What if I have flown by it?"
- "What will I do without a radio and I get lost? I will be the laughing stock of the company."
- "I wonder if "Sally," will remarry if something happens to me?"
- "I bet that she has her eye on "Tom," our good friend and neighbor who is a retired college football coach. Bet he has a great pension."
- "Where's that smoke coming from? I've never smoked tobacco or anything. Oh my God! I see smoke coming from around the front of the engine."
- "I cannot jump without a parachute and my radio is down. I guess this is it. Might as well pray my last prayer."
- "Lord, I will begin my prayer after that smoke and rattling stops."
- " . . ."Charlie One Dog Trot. This is Thor Nine. Over!"
- "Oh, thank God I am saved! It's my boss."
- "Yes, this is "Charlie One Dog Trot. over."
- "Uh, "Charlie One Dog Trot, uhh, got a question for ya.' Over."
- "Go ahead, Thor Nine. Over."
- " . . .(cough, cough), uhhh, "Charlie One Dog Trot, uhhh, what on earth are you doing up there in the company's trainer plane that we use here on the ground to train our new pilots? Over."
- " . . ."Charlie One Dog Trot," you there? Over."
Note: I have never mastered the correct way to write the sound of a person fainting.)
Other interesting links pertaining to crop dusting: