Welcome to The Minnesota Agricultural Aviation Association Website
The Minnesota Agricultural Aviation Association (MAAA) is a non-profit trade association representing the aerial application industry in Minnesota. Our mission is to support individual and industry professionalism, promote ethical and safe standards of operation, and secure the future of agricultural aviation.
Aerial Application Past & Present
Aerial application is an integral part of production agriculture. For almost 100 years, aerial applicators have been protecting America’s food and fiber. Airplanes were first used in 1921, in an attempt to protect crops and feed people in the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. At that time, nearly all of the products applied were dusting materials. Hence the term, “crop duster” was used to describe pilots that applied these materials at low altitudes to control disease and insect infestations.
Early experiments showed the great potential for aircraft to be used for crop protection, and today, aerial application accounts for up to one fourth of the delivery of crop production products in American agriculture. Farmers value the use of aircraft because they can cover so much area so quickly, without disturbing the soil or the growing crops. Aircraft can glide over the crops at up to 140 miles per hour. This is important because some pests and disease can do serious damage in just a day or two.
While this industry may have been born in 1921, we’ve grown up a lot since then. Turboprop aircraft that can carry almost 800 gallons in their hopper and cost up to a million dollars have replaced the early Bi-planes, Stearmans, and Jenny’s. Today’s aircraft use the latest Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology allowing for precision application; sophisticated dispersal systems monitoring flow rates for optimum dispersal; and calibration software that assures the correct application of today’s highly-selective agricultural chemicals. In addition, on-going research and testing has provided new products that are more user-friendly and less intrusive in the environment.
Today’s crop protection products take an average of nine years to make it from inception to market, they undergo hundreds of separate tests and the cost of this research can vary from $152 to 184 million dollars. Only 1 in 139,000 products makes it from the laboratory to the farmer’s field.
Aerial application is used in Minnesota and throughout the nation to protect our land, our food and our families. Helicopters and planes are used in this state to protect our precious forest resources—forest fires and insect infestations can be devastating to forest plantations, and often times aerial application is the only method of delivering timely and efficient protection. Aircraft are commonly seen in Minnesota’s metropolitan areas protecting the public from growing mosquito populations that threaten public health. All of this is in addition to the usual function of applying herbicides, insecticides and fertilizer to fruit, vegetable and feed grain crops.
Minnesota has almost 150 agricultural aircraft pilots. Most of them have thousands of hours of experience. They must meet federal and state requirements both for flying skills and for the safe handling of chemicals. Aerial applicators must hold an FAA Part 137 certificate to operate an aerial application business. Pilots must have a commercial pilot’s license as well as a letter of competency to work as an ag pilot. Even though the low-level flying and quick turns may appear risky, these pilots are highly trained professionals who are very serious about their work.
Ag pilots value professionalism. Training continues throughout a pilot’s career. Minnesota has some of the strongest laws in the nation for agricultural aviation overseen by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). Minnesota’s pilots are required to attend 12 hours of continuing education classes on a yearly basis. Their classroom work includes updates on laws and regulations, crop protection materials, and the latest information on changing technology.
Minnesota’s aerial applicators are required by law to keep detailed records of every application they make and those records are available to MDA inspectors, as well as veterinarians and health professionals throughout the state. Minnesota’s aerial applicators also undergo regulatory inspections on a routine basis to ensure the protection of public health and safety.