2013: Year in Review
Tis the season to reflect on another year gone by. Amid the daily grind it’s easy to overlook the many ways NAAA serves as the aerial application industry’s wingman, but behind the scenes we’re here working for you—every day. Here are some of the ways we have helped our members and the industry over the past 12 months.
- In an effort to play a role in the EPA’s Drift Reduction Technology (DRT) certification and implementation program, NAAA submits comments to EPA in response to a call for public input regarding Pesticide Spray Drift Reduction Technologies. The detailed comments address numerous concerns and suggestions NAAA has, including: the costs of gaining certification potentially pricing small R&D entities and DRT developers out of the market; the assignment of drift reduction “star” categories being artificially precise for the variation that occurs in all experiments; consideration of multiple DRTs in pesticide product label revisions rather than the use of a single DRT; the capacity for timely evaluation for DRTs; the consideration of “other” drift reduction technologies and techniques used by aerial applicators such as AIMMS, smokers and participation in Operation S.A.F.E. application equipment calibration clinics; the impact of DRT certification on pesticide product risk assessment and label conditions; and the positive role of DRTs in future pesticide policy development.
- NAAA’s Board of Directors canvasses Capitol Hill and federal agencies to push for NPDES PGP relief, expanded tower marking requirements, continued funding for the USDA-ARS Aerial Application Technology unit and other issues of concern to the aerial application industry during the week of NAAA’s spring board meeting.
- NAAA co-hosts a House General Aviation (GA) Caucus event—headlined by actor, pilot and GA advocate Harrison Ford—to discuss the effects of sequestration on General Aviation, particularly with respect to planned tower closings at airports that mainly serve the GA community. Ford uses agricultural aviation as an example to illustrate the negative effects aviation user fees would have on GA businesses if implemented.
- After repeated inquiries seeking to learn more about the content of Disney’s Planes before its summer release, NAAA’s persistence pays off and Disney invites the association to attend a private screening at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., and is reassured to find out that agricultural aviation is portrayed in a positive manner in the film.
- NAAA submits comments to the FAA on the proposed privacy approach for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) stating databases should be developed showing when and where UAS are operating, thereby allowing pilots to have a means to check where unmanned activity is likely to occur. NAAA also states that UAS should be plainly visible to other pilots and feature eye-catching color marking and lighting, such as aircraft strobe lights.
- NAAA and other representatives from general aviation organizations meet with the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Michael Huerta, to discuss proposed actions to further enhance aviation safety and reduce accidents. The FAA set a goal in 2009 to decrease accidents by 10 percent over 10 years. Fatal accident rates have remained flat over the past five years, however, and the GA accident rate has been relatively flat since 2006. NAAA’s Andrew Moore urged Administrator to expand the scope of the FAA’s 2011 Advisory Circular (AC) to include all towers under 200 feet as a means of further safeguarding low-level aviators. The 2011 AC provides guidance for marking Meteorological Evaluation Towers (METs) with cable balls, aviation orange and white painting, and florescent sleeves from the ground to above the crop canopy.
- NAAA unveils a new promotional tool for members designed to provide a brief overview of the ag aviation industry and the vital role aerial applicators play in helping to produce a safe, affordable and abundant supply of food, fiber and biofuel. The PowerPoint presentation is comprised of a brief history of the industry, its scope and importance, aerial applicators’ work in precision agriculture, as well as numerous images of ag planes at work. Members can download the Aerial Application 101 presentation.
- NAAA informs members that through its efforts the House and Senate Appropriations Committees once again included language endorsing the continued support of the USDA-ARS Aerial Application Technology Program in its Agriculture Appropriations Bills, this time for Fiscal Year 2014. The 2014 projected Agricultural Research Service appropriations funding represents an overall increase of $664,000 and $21,297,000 in the House and Senate respectively, compared to ARS’s funding in 2013. The mention of aerial application within House and Senate legislation is no small feat, as it is one of only a handful of programs specifically mentioned. Since 2002 NAAA successfully lobbied the government for an additional $6,512,500 to be invested in aerial application research.
- After a fatal MET tower collision claims the life of an ag pilot in the Southwest, NAAA Executive Director Andrew Moore conducts a number of radio interviews, including one with KXDJ-FM in Perryton, Texas. Over the course of that 20-minute interview, Moore informs listeners about the hazards associated with unmarked MET towers and what NAAA is doing to blunt the dangers towers and other obstructions pose to low-level aviators.
- NAAA and NAAREF put the finishing touches on the 2013–2014 PAASS Program in preparation for the program’s 16th year of educating pilots on essential safety, security and drift minimization issues important to flying, modern agriculture and crop protection.
- Testifying before the House Small Business Committee, NAAA Executive Director Andrew Moore shares the agricultural aviation industry’s safety concerns over the proliferation of low-level obstacles throughout the nation—including UAS.
- NAAA promotes agricultural aviation at an aviation career expo in Leesburg, Va., an event that draws approximately 500 high school and college students from across the Mid-Atlantic region. Speaker Andrew Moore relays the importance of aerial application and the steps needed to become an ag pilot, and Allen Chorman & Son Inc. pilot Blair Thompson performs an aerial water drop demo.
- NAAA meets with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to enlist its support for securing better MET tower marking provisions. The NTSB has become a welcome ally—last spring it urged the FAA to amend 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 77 to require all METs be registered, marked and—where feasible—lit. The NTSB also recommends that a national, public database be created and maintained for the registration of all METs.
- NAAA returns to Reno, Nev., Dec. 9–12 for its 2013 Convention & Exposition. As is the case with all NAAA conventions, opportunities were abundant for participants to network, shop the exhibit floor at the world’s largest agricultural aviation trade show for the latest cutting-edge equipment, parts and services, attend substantive industry educational sessions, including new sessions on speed mentoring, unmanned aircraft systems and the first-ever NAAREF safety session on eliminating stall/spins in flight.
Having our annual convention in December allows NAAA to end the year on a high note, but the reality is each and every month of the year is eventful. The small size of NAAA’s staff (eight association professionals) belies the outsize results the association delivers. That’s because NAAA’s for-hire employees are augmented by a supportive group of more than 1,800 aerial application supporters. We invite you to join the cause of preserving and protecting agricultural aviation and your way of life if you aren’t a member already. To join, call (202) 546-5722 or visit our Membership Section and sign up online.