General Aviation – Not Just a Bunch of Rich Guys in Private Jets

These days with high gas prices, the economy in the tank and global warming, flying a small plane might seem unwise, extravigant, or even downright unpatriotic to some.  But not so.

Some of the traditionally most patriotic, hardworking and thrifty folks in America are using small planes in record numbers to keep the economy moving and food on our tables.  That’s right, the American farmer uses general aviation aircraft to support many of their most basic day-to-day operations on the farm and ranch.

It is estimated that without agricultural use of small planes, America’s crop yield would drop up to 50%.  Remember the rice shortage last summer? 

To compensate for lost yield, farmers would have to put millions of acres of grassland and forests into production.  Nothing “Green” about that.

So what are these guys doing in the air anyhow?  Well, they are replanting fields and forests from the air.  For example, rice and rye grass can be planted this way.

Of course, fertilizer can be applied from the air, allowing huge areas to be teated in response to changing soil and weather conditions.

We’re all familiar with the old fashioned “crop duster”,  sometimes dusting our cars as we drive down the highway, in addition to the roadside fields.  Today, farmers use satellite navigation with specialized “Ag Sprayers”  to place precisely measured amounts of pesticides literally within inches of intended start-stop points.  This minimizes over-spray and the amount of chemical needed to optimize crop production.

Speaking of land and water management, small aircraft are used to survey cropland to identify areas which may be over-watered and to spot the earliest signs of insect damage or erosion, even in the toughest terrain.

We’ve all heard of the lifesaving food drops for cattle stranded in frozen fields in the mid-west.  In addition, sick or injured animals can be located and even evacuated for comprehensive treatment if necessary.

The next time you visit the grocery store, remember the general aviation pilots who make the variety and abundance of food we sometimes take for granted, possible.