The Vinton Veteran's Memorial Airport was abuzz with activity Thursday morning. About a dozen Aerial Applicators, commonly called "Crop Dusters" from across the Midwest arrived in Vinton for a voluntary certification process hosted by Noe Aviation.
The airplanes filled the sky as they descended to the same altitude commonly used when spraying - usually from twelve to fourteen feet above crop canopy. Once at that altitude, the pilots discharged water with a pink dye from their hoppers as they crossed over a thin string. The string is then fed into a computer which tells the pilot the width of their swath to optimize their spray pattern. Another test shows the droplet size in any given area to assure that the correct amount of product is applied to the crops.
Local applicator, pilot, and businessman Mark Noe of Noe Aviation LLC emphasized the importance of this voluntary certification. Mark learned the exact swath width and nozzle setting for his aircraft which helps him determine the height above ground he must fly to get the correct amount of product onto the crops to avoid "streaking" by missing rows of crops unknowingly. This was particularly important to Mark since this will be his first season with a new to him airplane.
The event was well received by each of the pilots as they learned more about their aircraft and were able to adjust spray patterns accordingly.
The Vinton Airport will host at least three aerial application companies as they begin to stage their equipment in mid-July. Not only do the pilots buy fuel at the airport, which certainly helps the budget, the Iowa DOT estimates an impact of $745,000 to northern Benton County as a result of product sales by local businesses, better crop yield, added employees for the spray season, and added income for associated business such as insurance sales and transportation.
The Vinton Airport averages 348 flights from non-based aircraft each year. Those pilots buy fuel, shop our downtown business, stay in local motels and eat in our restaurants - spending $122,300 each year.