Monday, August 19, 2013

Saskatchewan Aerial Applicators Association says crop duster crashes rare

Crop duster crash near Quill Lake on Aug. 13, 2013. 
RCMP handout

The Saskatchewan Aerial Applicators Association (SAAA) will look to learn from an uncharacteristically dangerous week in the skies.

"It's very unfortunate that this accident occurred. Safety is the biggest concern. Our industry is very highly regulated," said Paul O'Carroll with the association.

The first of last week's crashes happened on Tuesday near Quill Lake. RCMP say the plane had engine trouble just after takeoff.

The second crash occurred Friday morning in a field west of Rose Valley. The 31 year old pilot from Alberta died at the scene. The Transportation Safety Board says engine failure was behind that crash as well.

A third accident Friday happened near the tiny community of Aylsham near Nipawin. The 66-year-old pilot said his wheels touched the ground while it was in a turn, causing it to crash. He walked away with no injuries.

The SAAA operates training and safety programs and seminars for the province's crop dusting pilots.

"There's a 40 to 50 hour program on aerial spraying," O'Carroll explained, "and then they'll work for an operator, and you're under strict supervision for 12 months while you're working for that operator."

O'Carroll says there are about 100 crop dusting planes operating in the province during the four-month spraying season and accidents are typically rare.

In light of these crashes, O'Carroll says there will likely be changes forthcoming within the industry.

"We have conferences every year and training seminars and sessions. [We will] talk about some of these accidents with our members and try to rectify things a little bit."

Conferences happen twice a year in the fall and winter.