Producers hiring aerial applicators should carefully vet their credentials

Tom Henihan
Express Staff

The agricultural pilot community is a small fraternity with approximately 300 Aerial applicators in Canada with just about everyone involved in the industry knowing each other.

However, as has been the case here in the Smoky River Region recently, there are some fly-by-night, types who circumvent the rules and regulations.

The legitimate members of the industry want these interlopers out and they are usually exposed and blacklisted

All Aerial application businesses are obliged to register with provincial regulatory agencies to ensure that these businesses use only certified pesticide applicators, that they are carrying insurance, and fulfilling all provincial regulatory requirements.

In stark contrast to the recent experiences with un-certified operators, there are also well-established, reliable operators working in the region.

One such individual is Terry Spence, the owner/operator of Bonnyville Air Services, a company established in 1980 and working out of Donnelly Airport in the Smoky River region for the past three years.

Bonnyville Air Services has all the right credentials and equipment to provide its comprehensive custom aerial application services.

Those services include seeding, fertilizing, hydro seeding, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, pre-harvest glyphosate and desiccation applications.

Designed specifically for aerial application purposes, Bonnyville’s turbine aircraft, the Air Tractor 402A, uses aerodynamic spray booms with the capacity for spraying swaths up to 12 feet, (22.86 meters) offering superb spray deposition and drift reduction, and it is equipped with smoke generators for wind drift indication.

The aircraft also uses a GPS system for precise aerial application and has a proprietary swath narrowing system capable of tapering to 10 meters for seeding and fertilizing.

Terry Spence also brings a wealth of experience to the profession, having worked in the aviation industry since 1975, both across Canada and in Africa, and has accumulated in excess of 15,000 flying hours in a diverse range of fixed wing aircraft.

When producers are hiring aerial applicators, the producers should vet all credentials to ensure that they are hiring a licensed operator, one who ideally has membership in a reputable organization such as the Alberta Aerial Applicators Association (AAAA).

AAAA is a non-profit society that promotes the benefits of aerial application in agriculture, forestry and related industries, while also strongly advocating safety and professionalism among its members.

Membership in the AAAA is 48 percent corporate members, which, like Spence, are owner/operators of an aerial application business. Aerial application pilots constitute 18 percent of the membership, and 34 percent are allied members who are not directly involved in aerial application but who provide services to the industry.


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