Wisconsin Applicator Declares Towers Off Limits for Spraying

Agricultural Aviation, November/December 2009

Reabe Spraying Service believes performing an aerial application near a wind energy facility poses an unacceptable risk to its pilots, the company and its aircraft, which is why it refuses to treat ag land within range of such facilities.

To date, the policy has cost the company roughly 3 percent of its gross sales, Damon Reabe said, “with the potential for much greater losses as wind energy development in Wisconsin expands.” Losses like those beat the alternative.

In May 2009 Reabe Spraying Service sent a letter to its customers clearly explaining why it’s unsafe to perform aerial application inside of a wind energy facility. The company cited the size and amount of wind turbines in a given treatment area, which result in visual distractions and less maneuvering space than an ag pilot needs to perform an application, and wake turbulence as reasons for the policy.

Customers have been very understanding. “The message is very well received provided you take the time needed to explain your profession in detail,” Reabe said. “As aerial applicators we have a tendency to describe our profession in a manner that minimizes the public’s perception of the level of risk we accept in performing an aerial application.”

Such modesty can lead customers and wind energy developers to conclude that ag pilots can easily perform these operations “since we are already ‘used to working around obstructions anyway.’ ”

“If we take the time to explain everything that goes into applying a plant health product to a singular field, two things are accomplished,” Reabe said. “One, your customer/Senator/neighbor/wind energy developer now has a better understanding of what you do, and two, these people will understand that your policy regarding operations in or near wind turbines is not a matter of personal convenience, it is a matter of personal safety.”

To read Reabe Spraying Service’s letter explaining its policy prohibiting aerial application within wind facilities, click here.