Reliable Security and Agricultural Aviation Operations

Agricultural aviation operations across the country are taking proactive steps to ensure the safety of their aircraft and safeguard homeland security.

Aerial applicators, or agricultural pilots, are well-trained professionals who take very seriously their responsibility to protect the safety of their neighbors, employees, the public and the environment, which is why agricultural aviation operations place a premium on chemical and aviation security.

Safety and security have always been foremost concerns for the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) and its members, but even more so in the 21st century. The shocking events of September 11, 2001, thrust aviation and particularly ag aviation into the spotlight as a potential means for carrying out terrorist activities, even though an ag plane has never been involved in any terrorist activity. NAAA and its membership responded by adopting and aggressively promoting a set of enhanced security procedures. These security measures include:

  • Storing aircraft and crop protection products in locked hangars with electronic security systems when not in use.
  • Parking and disabling loader trucks, forklifts or other heavy equipment to block aircraft. 
  • Using propeller locks, propeller chains or tie-downs on aircraft in cases where the aircraft must be left outdoors. 
  • Removing batteries from planes and disabling engines from unused aircraft. 
  • Installing other undisclosed security devises preventing operation of the aircraft to unauthorized individuals. Securely storing and monitoring crop protection products in buildings with steel doors and electronic security systems with tampering tape.
  • Establishing contact with federal and local law enforcement agencies to coordinate responses to security breaches at ag aviation facilities.

In addition to those measures, NAAA launched the Ag Airfield Watch program, and the National Agricultural Aviation Research & Education Foundation (NAAREF) incorporated a new security module into its safety program. NAAREF educates aerial applicators about security issues year-round in the Professional Aerial Application Support System (PAASS) program. PAASS’s goals are to educate pilots on security issues, minimize drift and promote aviation safety.

“Our industry continues to work closely with local, state and federal officials to ensure that the equipment used in our business is not a threat to homeland security,” NAAA Executive Director Andrew Moore said. “We are committed to doing everything we can to help officials make sure that public safety concerns do not deprive the American people of the benefits they receive from agricultural aviation.”

For the record, a crop duster has never been involved in any terrorist activity, and the chances are extremely remote an ag plane ever would. From excessive weight to tail-configured steering, an ag plane is a unique aircraft to fly. The complexity and sophistication of aerial application aircraft, combined with the level of skill required to operate these planes make it unlikely they could be used in attacks by terrorists. Nearly all crop dusters have single-seat cockpits, a fact that all but eliminates the possibility of hijacking. Stealing an ag plane would also be a difficult feat.

Nevertheless, there are unbalanced people in society. In today’s world, NAAA and its members understand the importance of being on guard about matters of operational security at all times.

The aerial application industry plays an important role in ensuring a safe, affordable and abundant supply of food and fiber for the world’s growing population. With the 2011 application season in full swing, the public can take comfort in the fact that aerial applicators are committed to safeguarding homeland security and want nothing less than to make it through another safe and successful season.