Pilots make sure things run smoothly when operating crop-dusters

Safety Concerns for many pilots



Earlier this week, a crop-duster went down in a field off Highway 41 in the southern part of Fresno County.  The pilot was spraying herbicide.  His spotters say he suddenly told them he couldn't talk and then went down.  That pilot survived.  Another pilot wasn't as fortunate.

Karen Johnson was killed when her chopper crashed last week near Delano.  Johnson was flying the helicopter to help keep crops from freezing. 

These are many dangers associated with crop dusting.

Pilot, Scott Goodlin is always concerned for safety.

“Safety is number one when you’re flying.  There’s a lot of things that can go wrong while you’re flying,” said Goodlin.

Goodlin helps manage his family business, Earlimart Dusters, Inc., a crop dusting company that’s been spraying fields for years.

“We apply pesticides and that includes herbicides, insecticides, also fertilizers and seeds to fields,” he said.

During the summer, pilots work around the heat, but in the winter, their busiest time of the year, the challenge is the fog.

“We send people out to check the fields, check our visibility before we even leave to go to the fields to make sure we have enough visibility and high enough ceilings to be able to get out to the fields,” said Goodlin.

The weather is not the only thing the pilots have to keep a close eye on, they also have to be concerned over the distance between the plane and the crop and look out for power lines.

Constant training in the aircrafts, regular plane maintenance and the amount of chemicals on board keeps pilots safe during every flight.

“We assure they are using the right amounts, they are using the right rates, spraying on the right crops and also assuring that they are being safe as far as drift is concerned.  Assuring the pesticide is not moving off site onto unwanted crops or structures, or people,” said Agriculture Commissioner Ruben Arroyo of the Department of Agriculture and Measurement Standards.

Crews with the department of agriculture and measurement standards randomly send inspectors to sites making sure pilots, growers and even ground applicators are using chemicals properly.

“We inspect anybody that uses a pesticide to ensure that they are following the directions of the label and also wearing the right safety equipment and handling all the pesticides and handling them safely,” said Arroyo.

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