Inside The Plane
Welcome to our new Inside The Plane page. Our goal is to help give the public an inside look of the decision making an Ag Pilot makes before applying crop aid products and help everyone to understand the big picture.
Aerial Application is a very unique industry that is growing alongside the agricultural industry in Canada. We understand that an aircraft flying around farmyards and acreages can be an inconvenience. We strongly suggest that if you have any questions or concerns to contact your local operator and ask the questions you might have. Due to the Ag Aerial Application being a seasonal operation an immediate conversation might not be possible. We also encourage you to keep in mind that the season is a high-stress one for pilots, operators, and office staff. Please use language and tone that is appropriate, and we will do the same. Keeping a professional dialogue is critical in these times for the complainant, pilot, and/or the operator is necessary to fully understand each other's position.
We do suggest calling the Office instead of attempting to approach the pilot. This can be very distracting to a pilot's concentration throughout the days to come. Contacting the Operator would be the best step to avoid this scenario. Our members are Grandpas, Mother, Fathers, Sons, Daughters that all have families to go home to when the sunsets. No members take-off with the attempt to disrupt or put the public in danger. Ag Pilots all have a job to do and are very passionate about helping provide food for the world.
Every situation is different and an Ag pilot might make a wrong decision from time to time. An Ag pilot has to consider many factors in his/her decision making. Ag Pilots are human and mistakes will be made. If we respect each other in this crucial time a possible negative could be turned into a positive and help grow a pilot's development in becoming a true Profesional Ag pilot.
If you continue having trouble understanding why an Ag pilot or an Operator is making this decision ask them to help you understand their thought process. Aerial Application decision making involves a ton of elements. We have developed a series we are calling Field Check to give you a glimpse into the Ag Pilot’s mindset. Our goal is to help educate Rural Saskatchewan of our Operations and to better and maintain our relationships with acreage owners, growers and rural residents.
Field Check 250'
Field Study One
Ag Pilots are educated in Ag School to do a Pre-Field Check at 250' to locate any obstacles in and around the field. This includes Powerlines and entering and exiting occupied and abandoned yards. Ag Pilots often ask themselves, "how is that yard getting power, where is that line? It's a best practice to fly over a yard at 500' to confirm that a wire is not entering or exiting that yard.
Telephone, internet communication and weather towers do not mix with aircraft and could be a factor in how an ag pilot is flying the field.
Neighbouring yards are always considered. Sometimes there will be more then one yard in or around the field and this can not be avoided. When this is the case, keep in mind the pilot has many other factors to consider when deciding on the proper way of flying the field Often this is the case and not fully understood by the public in why an aircraft is flying over their yard.
In our Field Check videos, we will demonstrate an aircraft doing a field-check to locate obstacles and plan how to clear them. You will be able to see many of the considerations that are being made. Hopefully, this helps you understand.
Ag Pilots in Saskatchewan often spray in a race-track pattern like a Zamboni cleans ice surfaces. Ag Aircraft generally have a swath width of 70' which is 38 swaths on a full quarter of land.
Time to complete a full quarter (160 acres) takes up to 30 minutes.
If the field is a half section or bigger, larger Aircraft can complete this field in 45 minutes to an hour.
Field Study Three
Field Study Two
Field Study Four
Ag Aircraft are all equipped with “smoking” equipment. Smoke is used to verify wind direction for accuracy before and during the application of crop-aid products.
When an Ag pilot is applying pest control products or helping the grower to mature his crop faster, an Ag Pilot is educated to make a dry pass and lay down smoke by sensitive areas and monitor the smoke direction. This becomes the decision aid to ensure public safety and the safety of adjacent sensitive crops, trees, grasses, gardens.
Smoke may also be applied by the Ag pilot if he notices a spectator standing down-wind. By deploying smoke the Ag Pilot is trying to warn the spectator to leave the area. Having to do additional circling to wait for a spectator to leave is expensive. Having to take a fully loaded aircraft back to base is a decision every Ag Pilot wants to avoid making. Landing a loaded plane is not easy and increases the danger to the pilot and the aircraft.
Smoke is white and will linger and dissipate slower than the crop-aid product. Smoke is used in helping identify an inversion or dead calm conditions. Inversions happen during summer and fall evenings when the temperature during the day is high. When an inversion occurs, crop-aid products can hang in the air and drift off target.
Smoke can also be used by the ag pilot to communicate that "I see you" when doing a field check or "hello".
Powerlines are the number one obstacle Ag Pilots deal with every day. In Saskatchewan we have single-phase, three-phase, H frame, big steel frame powerlines.
It can be dangerous to fly over a powerline. When an aircraft goes over a powerline the pilot loses visibility of the wire and could make contact at the top of the wire.
In areas where there's a lot of tall trees, powerline poles and wires could be completely hidden. A break in a tree row is one of the main wire strikes that occur. The pilot may have missed or failed to locate a wire and poles hidden and flies through the break in the tree line instead of pulling out as early in than past swaths.
When a pilot finishes his field. Its normal practice to do headline passes on each end of the field. Wire strikes can happen when a pilot has forgotten about a line that he or she hasn't had to deal with in that past 30 minutes or 70 swaths. Often this strike can happen because in the headline pass the pilot is flying in a different direction from his earlier swath work.
An aircraft may continue to circle a yard if he is having trouble locating the powerline or determining where it is going. It is a best practice to not start the field without being confident that she or he has located all powerlines and obstacles that may cause a risk to the pilot and risk of not completing the job. Imagine being in this situation not confident of what's in front of you. If you have ever looked at a power line from the ground, you have witnessed that they are hard to see even when stationary. Smaller aircraft fly at speeds near 90-120 mph; Turbine aircraft can reach up to 180 mph.
The ag plane constant circling can be frustrating to yard owers. Please understand that the pilot’s safety is absolutely crucial. On top of all this sun can make it extremely difficult to see at times. If we are circling, we are making sure.
In Saskatchewan, guy wires and insulators are indications that a line is changing direction. This a tip Ag pilots use to follow a powerline direction.
Doing a proper field-check is absolutely crucial for pilots' safety and has to be done before starting any field.
Remember "How is that yard getting power? Where are the wires? Where are the poles?"
Aerial application is a specialty career. Ag Pilots not only have to be highly skilled aviators. They also need to be able to make split second decisions with confidence. Every field is different, every situation is unique. Below is the snapshot of all things an Ag Pilot needs to take into consideration when in the aircraft. All our members have a job to do, to the best of their ability. Our main goal is to always come home safe to our loved ones.