Wall Street Journal Examines Booming Aerial Application Business

For a small industry, aerial applicators landed some mighty big press. On Aug. 14, 2009, a front-page article in The Wall Street Journal examined the need for aerial application under the headline, “Flying Low is Flying High as Demand for Crop-Dusters Soars.”

The article is a direct result of months of work NAAA did behind the scenes. The idea came when reporter Jonathan Welsh learned that agricultural aviation is one part of the aviation sector doing well in spite of the recession. NAAA Executive Director Andrew Moore armed Welsh with a wealth of background information and story sources, including Dusty Dowd of Syracuse Flying Service, Syracuse, Kan., who serves as the main character in Welsch’s feature.

The resulting article was extremely positive. Gems from the piece include:

  • Dowd’s tough-love approach to mentoring aspiring ag pilots. (Mr. Dowd grabbed the controls in a huff, guided the Piper back to its original course and told Mr. Peterson to ‘try again.’ ”)
  • The contrasting fortunes of the aerial application and airline industries. (Aerial application “is a hot field, thanks in part to the recent farming boom. … But airlines are struggling, canceling routes, cutting pay and laying off pilots.”)
  • Salary information. (Skilled ag pilots typically make $60,000–$100,000 a year, whereas “pilots at small airlines start at $20,000 and rarely get anywhere near six figures.”)
  • Why agricultural aviation appeals to one aspiring pilot. (“He says the low passes and precise maneuvers required for spraying constitute ‘a purer form of flying.’ ”)

The article conveys both the need for new ag pilots and the skill and dedication it takes to become one. “It is a terrific recruiting tool for our industry,” Moore said. “Dusty Dowd was a fantastic source and once again came through for this great industry.”

For an industry known for flying under the radar, there’s no better venue than the Wall Street Journal to educate readers about the business of aerial application. In addition to its reputation as the premier business newspaper, the Journal has a hefty print circulation (1.7 million) and more than one million paid subscribers to WSJ.com. For the Journal’s website, Welsh went a step further, filing a companion video report. To read the article, click here.