ALMA, Mich. — Many of the state’s aerial applicators demonstrated their aviation skills while the Michigan Department of Agriculture conducted precision, safety and security inspections of their aircraft and spray systems as part of the Michigan Operation SAFE Fly-In that was held April 22-23 at Al’s Aerial Spraying at the Alma Airport, Alma, Mich.
Operation SAFE is an annual event held in cooperation with Michigan Department of Agriculture, the Michigan Agricultural Aviation Association and Michigan State University Extension as a self-regulating application flight efficiency (SAFE) clinic.
The event provided a hands-on opportunity to address any questions related to pesticide use regulations before the upcoming season.
“This year’s fly-in facilitated partnerships that are key to ensuring aerial pesticide application standards for safety and security are met and training and equipment are up-to-date. Such efforts ensure the utmost precautions are taken to protect the environment and human health,” said Don Koivisto, Michigan Department of Agriculture director.
The department administered aircraft equipment calibration and characterization test flights for each pilot along with an aircraft spray system inspection.
The pilots simulated an application by flying low over a line of water-sensitive cards and a new string line.
Spray droplets landing on the cards were be counted and analyzed by a computer-assisted instrument to ensure proper characterization of spray droplets.
The string line is used to absorb spray material to characterize spray pattern deposition.
Approximately 15 pilots with aircraft attend Operation SAFE annually. Attending Operation SAFE once every three years with an aircraft meets the legal requirements for renewing applicator certification or a business license issued by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
Aerial applications are one tool to help protect or enhance agricultural crops or public health.
For example, agricultural aviators may seed wheat fields, help mitigate gypsy moth infestations or health-threatening mosquito populations or apply pesticides to agricultural crops suffering from insect or disease pests.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture requires any aerial application firm working in Michigan to be licensed annually.
In addition, pilots are certified and participate in a continuing education program. There are 24 state-licensed aerial application firms.