Agricultural pilot talks crop dusting safety after series of crashes in region

Published: Jun. 24, 2021 at 9:51 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 24, 2021 at 11:06 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NEWPORT, Ark. (KAIT) - After at least three crop-duster crashes in the last month with one deadly, Region 8 News investigates safety measures for those pilots taking to the skies.

Agricultural pilot Bubba Bell says that an accident can happen at any time, even when a pilot is doing everything they can to stay safe. He says he thinks regulations are where they need to be.

“I think we do a very good job in our association, both the national and the state to minimize any accidents,” said Bell.

Bell is the owner of Bell Flying Incorporated. He has been an agricultural pilot for about 30 years.

“It’s actually more dangerous driving back and forth to work with all the textures on the road, so we’re in a pretty safe atmosphere,” said Bell.

Bell says they have an annual safety meeting with the Arkansas Agricultural Aviation Association and an additional spring safety meeting.

“That’s one of the topics that we touch on is safety every year to stay hydrated, manage your stress, stay focused on what you’ve going on, and just keep your head in the game,” said Bell.

Bell said there are requirements to become a crop-duster pilot.

“You have to be certified as a private pilot and a commercial pilot, and you have to take all of your ag tests and commercial written tests. It takes a bit of time,” said Bell.

You also need an applicator license and pass an annual medical exam.

Scott Bretthauer, the Director of Education and Safety for the National Agricultural Aviation Association, says one-third of accidents are mechanical-related, meaning it’s crucial to get routine inspections.

Other common issues they see are:

  • People hitting towers.
  • The aircraft is overweight for weather conditions. This usually causes the aircraft to crash at liftoff when the hopper is filled to maximum capacity.

“Accidents can happen even if you’re being totally safe but just stay focused, stay ahead of the airplane, think safety, and everything will hopefully work out,” said Bell.

Nationally, accidents and fatalities are down 25 percent since the Professional Aerial Applicators’ Support System (PAASS) program began in 1996.

For more on safety, click here.

Copyright 2021 KAIT. All rights reserved.