The California Agricultural Aircraft Association (CAAA) is a non-profit trade association representing the professional aerial application industry in California. Our stated mission is to “Support individual and industry professionalism, promote ethical and safe standards of operation, and secure the future of agricultural aviation.”

Aerial application is an integral part of production agriculture. For over 80 years, aerial application has been protecting America’s food and fiber. In the industry’s beginnings, all of the products applied were dusting materials. Hence the term “crop duster” came to describe the pilots that applied materials at low altitude to control disease and insect infestation.

Originally, the aircraft used to make these applications were surplus military aircraft. However, flying at low altitudes with heavy loads required specialized aircraft. Today, modern agricultural aircraft are highly specialized, sole purpose aircraft that use the latest Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) software allowing for precision applications, sophisticated dispersal systems monitoring flow rates for optimum dispersal and calibration software that assures the correct amount of today’s highly selective agricultural chemicals are applied. Without the efficient and timely use of modern crop protection products it is estimated that over 50% of our agricultural commodities would be lost to pest infestation.

In addition to specialized aircraft, modern agricultural (ag) pilots are highly trained professionals. Approximately, 300 licensed pilots apply seed, fertilizer, crop protection products and mosquito abatement products throughout California. The average ag pilot has over 15 years of ag flying time. Many of the pilots in California have significantly more experience.

California’s over 350 commodities and growing population create additional challenges for modern aerial applicators. Applicators must consider numerous factors before applications are made. Surrounding crops, weather conditions, sensitive areas and location of bees and field workers are all considerations before an application can occur. Professional ag pilots attend continuing education courses to stay up to date on industry trends, product information and regulations to continue to safely and effectively protect our environment, our food supply and our citizens.

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