Friday, April 04, 2014

Low-flying crop duster planes begin season of fertilizing wheat fields

MOSCOW, ID - Spring is in the air, and so are the crop dusters. 

Reporter Rachel Dubrovin tells us what it's like to take a ride in one of those low-flying planes, and why farmers are keeping the pilots busy this time of year.

"I am a professional aerial applicator… is the politically correct term," said Aerial Applicator Kenny Meines. "However when I say that to people, they go, 'What do you do?' And I say, 'I'm a crop duster,' and they go 'Oh, okay.'"

Kenny Meines has been flying spray planes for over twenty years. He's currently based north of Palouse.

"Spray planes can cover the ground really fast, so when there's a major problem like stripe rust in the wheat, we can treat that very quickly with an aircraft," said Meines.

Meines said the rolling hills of the Palouse make it more difficult to spray or apply dry fertilizer... but you certainly won't hear him complain about this view.

"The weather is the biggest challenge, and the wind's blowing right now, which is our worst enemy," said Meines.

"This time of year, we're putting dry fertilizer on the wheat to try to raise the protein values of the wheat," said Meines.

I just spent about 20 minutes in this Thresh Aircraft. We were flying about 30 feet above the ground, going about 160 miles an hour, and I can easily say it was the bumpiest airplane ride I have ever been on.

"Low and fast, I like this kind of flying, and it's a very challenging type of flying," said Meines.

That need for speed might just run in the family because Meinus' son Michael has been flying with him for the last four years.

"There's just a lot more freedom to it," said Michael. "I mean, you're not on the radio constantly with like air traffic control."

Both Kenny and Michael Meines said they enjoy working as a father-son team, especially in the industry of agriculture.

"It's just neat to be a part of a group of guys that help try and feed the world," said Kenny.

"That's what we're here to do," said Michael. "I mean, we're here to help farmers out and get the food out there."

Kenny Meines said they generally start flying in March, and continue until early September.

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