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Operation SAFE Aerial Aviators Demonstrate Skills
State also inspected aircraft spray systems and calibrated, characterized spray patterns
April 25, 2012
Lakeview, MI - Michigan's skilled aerial pesticide applicators performed "Operation SAFE Fly-in," a clinic conducted by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), to examine the precision, safety, and security of the spray systems of both planes and helicopters.
Operation SAFE is a self-regulating application flight efficiency (SAFE) clinic sponsored by MDARD, the Michigan Agricultural Aviation Association and Michigan State University Pesticide Safety Education Program. The event occurs annually and provides the opportunity to address any questions related to pesticide use and regulations before the upcoming season.
"Operation SAFE protects both the environment and human health by ensuring aerial pesticide applications are done safely and securely and that equipment is maintained and up-to-date," said Keith Creagh, MDARD Director. "The event demonstrates the commitment of both the state and the industry to provide safe and proper pesticide spraying and aircraft handling."
MDARD will use an application droplet calibration system to analyze aircraft application patterns and droplet size. This technology has been used by the federal government to calibrate aircraft application patterns in response to the 2010 gulf oil crisis. The department will administer aircraft equipment calibration and characterization test flights for each pilot along with an aircraft spray system inspection. The pilots will fly low over a line of water-sensitive cards to simulate an application. Spray droplets landing on the cards will be counted and analyzed by computer-assisted instrument to ensure proper characterization of spray droplets.
Approximately 15 pilots participate in Operation SAFE annually and by attending this event once every three years with an aircraft, pilots meets the legal requirements for renewing applicator certification or a business license issued by MDARD.
"Aerial applications are one tool that is used to help protect or enhance agricultural crops and public health," said Gina Alessandri, MDARD's Pesticide & Plant Pest Management Division Director. "For example, agricultural aviators may seed wheat fields, help mitigate gypsy moth infestations or health-threatening mosquito populations, or apply pesticides to agricultural crops suffering from insect or disease pests."
MDARD requires any aerial application firm working in Michigan to be licensed annually. In addition, pilots are certified and participate in a continuing education program. There are 26 state-licensed aerial application firms.
Operation SAFE began in April 1981 in Lakeview, Michigan. The event is held at a different location each year and hosted by a different commercial aerial applicator service. This year, Operation SAFE will be hosted by Heritage Ag., LLC at the Griffith Field; Lakeview Airport - one mile northeast of Lakeview.
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