Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Pilot's Wink

Okay, so have you ever been close enough to a plane's cockpit to see the pilot wink at you?

Not while it's on the ground, but in mid-air? Potentially above your child's swing set?

If you have, you're probably a farm kid, wife or farmer, as crop dusters get close enough to the ground in order to apply fungicide (in our case) that you can see him wink. Well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but I do know that the pilot is a guy, and I'm sure he knows my shirt is purple and that we need to water our flowers, as he has been buzzing just feet above our house from north to south, covering the corn fields on either side of us.

This is a fascinating, albeit frightening, aspect of farming. This application must be done at the precise time, as in a teeny tiny window of time when the plant will take the fungicide and use it to fight off any and all diseases and pests. This application must also be applied close, but not too close, to the plants, mere feet above the fragile tassel of the corn plant. It is amazing to me, especially when the plane looks like it could come crashing through our family room windows.

My kids, however, are a little less excited once the crop duster's first pass is over. Crop dusting, like any other farming practice, is a bit of a "season," and we're now in week two of application. The first day we were buzzed by the yellow and blue aircraft, my two older girls raced from one end of the upstairs to the other, announcing the arrival and departure, as any miniature air traffic controller would. Amelia woke up in distress from her nap the first day after hearing the plane as it whizzed past our house.

Now, they're watching Barbie and the Fashion Fairytale, and not batting an eye. Even the dog is no longer hysterical, and she barks at the corn at night.

We've become as jaded as city folks who live near an airport or busy expressway. Just another that includes a plane a mere 6 feet from your house!

Anyway, I'm still infatuated with the crop duster planes. As I stepped out onto the deck to wave at the pilot the first year we lived here, I wondered how we would ever live here, with all of this stuff being applied around us. However, this is all a false worry, and something that folks should just marvel at, not worry about. This fungicide would not hurt you, your kids or your plants. The only person who can get hurt from a crop duster's application is the pilot himself. But, even a wreck may not be deadly, as last year, right after spraying one of our fields, a pilot crashed, but walked away from the accident, completely unscathed from his wrecked plane.

That in itself is amazing.

So, if you ever get the chance to step out and watch a crop duster, do, and do without any worry of sprouting an 11th toe, third eye, or hair in weird places. Look at how low they go. Marvel at their precision, and if you're lucky look for the pilot's wink.


  1. I love this post! I am a crop duster's kid and I totally get everything you're saying. I took my senior pictures in a sunflower field with my daddy flying behind me and everyone thought it was photoshopped because they didn't believe he could get that close to me. But yes, it is a very dangerous job. We've had three crashes (each with different pilots) and one didn't walk away. He survived, and it is a miracle he's alive today but he will never be able to fly again. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    I do have to say, those chemicals are all handled very safely. Trust me, we wouldn't be able to have hangar cats (plus mice, bugs, salamanders, etc.) if those substances were really that harmful to anything other than what they're intended for. Although, I have gotten some on my skin before while mixing/loading and it can leave a good burn!

  2. Yep, I'm a farmers daughter, and we always loved how close they got!
    Love this post!!