PONTIAC — Kris Petersen grew up on the airport.
His mother and father, Scott and Sarah Petersen, began Pontiac Flying Service in 1997, and their younger son was usually in tow on the Livingston County facility.
“I used to be on the airport on daily basis, driving my bike, taking part in with airplane toys, and I began serving to on the loading pad, washing home windows, scrubbing wings, as quickly as I may attain up there to do it,” Petersen mentioned.
At the moment, the College of Illinois graduate is an aerial utility pilot and personnel supervisor for the household enterprise, which has expanded with a second facility within the Cooksville space and providers close to Champaign.
Whereas in class, Petersen studied crop sciences and agribusiness — schooling he believes is important to his success.
Incomes his wings might have been a lifelong dream, however Petersen remembers a time his physique wasn’t on the identical wavelength.
“I had an enormous drawback with air illness and movement illness,” he mentioned. “Finally, I bought that labored out of my system once I bought a bit older.”
Petersen’s father earned his pilot’s license in 1980 and has been an integral a part of his son’s journey, serving as teacher and mentor.
Few agricultural flight colleges exist within the nation, and Petersen estimates a nationwide pool of about 1,500 ag pilots.
“It’s not for everyone. … It’s a really area of interest market,” he mentioned.
No loopy flying
The antiquated time period “crop duster” can conjure up photos of daredevil pilots haphazardly flying previous fighter planes.
However the trade has come a great distance.
“Positively that’s been a stigma with the aerial utility enterprise for lots of years — the loopy crop-duster cowboy-type flying underneath energy strains, buzzing folks, simply on the market having a superb time,” Petersen mentioned. “The trade has executed a superb job getting that picture out of individuals’s heads.
“The (Nationwide Agricultural Aviation Affiliation) works very arduous to current our trade as skilled throughout the nation and world.”
Petersen mentioned the principles are agency along with his operation: No loopy flying.
That’s to not say Petersen doesn’t just like the adrenaline of being within the sky.
“The liberty of the flying is nice; you possibly can go anyplace you need,” he mentioned. “I benefit from the ag half, to make good purposes, and we get to be exact with the GPS gear we have now.”
Expertise has come a great distance since ag pilots used paper maps, plat books and highlighters to plot routes.
File yr for fungicide
The rise in fungicide jobs this season is just not distinctive to Pontiac Flying Service.
Sturdy demand for fungicides on account of illness stress, insect stress and optimistic return on funding have all contributed to fungicide purposes practically doubling from previous years, mentioned Jeff Bunting, crop safety division director at Growmark.
“There’s a broad spectrum of ailments being managed from grey leaf spot, Southern rust, etcetera,” Bunting mentioned. “Tar spot is displaying up in some areas, too.”
Bunting mentioned with elevated demand, some farmers struggled to search out out there pilots.
“I’m listening to that some aerial applicators are turning away enterprise as a result of they simply can’t get to them or received’t have the window to make the appliance in time,” he mentioned.
“Additionally, with the rise in demand we’re getting lots of questions on what’s happening, why are planes flying and what are they making use of? That is about how we work along with the general public and the significance round IPM (built-in pest administration) ideas and the necessity for the appliance.”
The Pontiac Flying Service crew was actually busy in Cooksville the primary week of August, with a handful of workers arriving simply because the solar peeked over the horizon on a Wednesday morning.
Standing in entrance of one of many 5 Air Tractors, Petersen mentioned the planes carry 500 to 800 gallons of liquid, which equates to an hour-and-a-half of spraying earlier than a pilot must land and reload.
The pilots can cowl 30,000 acres collectively in at some point, with planes touring 130 to 160 mph.
As his aircraft was being crammed and prepped, Petersen slipped away to seize his lunch field. It will be a protracted day, however he hoped to wrap up their fungicide purposes by the weekend.