Dream Maker Podcast: National Ag Aviation Association-Andrew Moore
The Dream Makers Podcast has officially reached its fourth season. To kick off our first episode, we spoke with Andrew Moore, CEO of the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) to bring more awareness to the ag aviation industry. Andrew shared his extensive experiences in the world of ag aviation, and later on in the episode, we also delve into the C-PAASS program, a key initiative designed to educate on aviation safety. Here are some of the biggest talking points we touched on during the episode.
What is the Ag Aviation Industry?
The ag aviation industry dates back over 100 years, with the first aerial application. In 1921, Catawba trees in Troy, Ohio, were suffering from an infestation of a pernicious insect, leading the Army Air Corp to try an experiment where they dusted the trees, removing the pests. Aerial application was later commercialized by a company called Delta Air Service, now known as Delta Airlines.
Since then, the industry has taken off. Today, the aerial application industry treats 127 million acres of cropland, or 28% of all cropland in the U.S. The aerial application industry also includes pasture land, forestry, and even public health spraying and firefighting done by air. Despite everything the industry does, its size is pretty small; Andrew notes it’s more like a tight-knit family.
NAAA also plays an important role in the industry (or family) by representing its interests. His organization does everything from educating the public on the industry and developing new safety programs to advocating for government policies that support the field.
A Process of Precision
If you’ve ever had a chance to stop and watch a crop duster fly over a field, it’s a pretty captivating experience. Andrew called it “ballet in the sky”, something we find pretty accurate, especially after hearing about all the scrutiny and precision required in aerial application. All aerial applicators must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). They also need to be skilled enough to fly low and avoid utility poles, wires, silos, and any other obstructions.
With such a cluttered environment, the ag aviation accident rate is impressively low–but not low enough, says Andrew. Accidents and fatalities still happen, and NAAA’s goal is to eliminate them. So far, their educational programs have helped prevent accidents, but Andrew stresses they won’t be satisfied until there are zero.
The C-PAAAS Program
Andrew told us about the C-PAASS program, one way NAAA hopes to reduce accidents. For those curious, the acronym stands for Certified Professional Aerial Applicator Safety Stewards. The program is in its first year, but builds on the PAASS and Operation Safe Programs, both oriented on environmental professionalism and safety. C-PAASS requires participation in the PAASS program, Operation Safe, and two NAAA memberships; one national, one local. Andrew also mentioned that in 2024, there will be even more curriculum available online, where applicators can complete their coursework.
According to Andrew, participants in these education programs are much more likely to be safe operators. He explained that out of all the operators involved in accidents, 85% haven’t consistently attended NAAA’s programs. As a result, the certifications NAAA offers makes operators less of an insurance risk and a better investment for bankers.
Follow the Dream Maker’s Podcast
If you haven’t already, you can listen to this episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. We went even deeper into everything ag aviation, exploring different aspects of the precise application process, new technologies, and what it’s like to be in the industry.