NORDO Crop Dusters

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by 455 Bravo Uniform, Apr 17, 2021.

  1. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    We haven’t had a good NORDO topic in a while, so what the heck, here goes-

    Flying into Walnut Ridge, AR (KARG), Rwy 18. Self announcing on CTAF.

    Nice lady comes on CTAF from FBO and lets me know there is a crop plane using 18 that just took off, is NORDO, but I should be fine as I’ll likely be landing before he gets back. I said thanks.

    The nice lady from the FBO also fueled me up, we chatted a while, I got some ice cream, stretched my legs, then off to the races again. Oh yeah, she said a bi-plane crop duster was heading there sometime soon, NORDO as well.

    That low wing duster had come and gone at least once if not more while I was there. He was airborne somewhere. I lined up for 18, launched and when I crossed the departure end I saw a bi-plane coming in on crosswind, to my right, heading west to east presumably to a left downwind.

    Not super close, but close enough where he turned on his spray for a second so I could see him, as we were headed for the same point in space. I had already seen him just before he did that and so I started a right turn past the departure end to avoid him and rocked my wings to say “I see ya”. I had to come back around to the left as I was departing north and wanted to stay in the left pattern.

    So 66% of the planes were NORDO. Maybe 80% of the operations in the 30-40 minutes I was there.

    No other comment. It is what it is. Be careful out there.
     
  2. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    It was smoke not spray. We have smoke systems on the airplanes just like the air show guys. Allows us to see what the wind is doing in fields so we can adjust for wind drift.
     
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  3. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    Gotcha, that makes sense, why would they return to base with product left.
     
  4. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    Not only that but where the material is dispensed is regulated. How much varies by state but even in the most lightly regulated states it’s still not anywhere close to being unregulated. It can also be very expensive depending on what’s being applied so it’s not something one would waste, especially since a customer paid for what’s inside the tank.
     
  5. Jim K

    Jim K Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    My cropduster story:

    As a student pilot I was solo practicing steep turns at 3000' just outside the Charlie airspace. I saw the air tractor probably 10 miles away, picking up on the landing light, and thinking that meant he was headed right for me and I should keep an eye out. I also turned on my landing lights. A few minutes later sure enough there was a panicked call from approach, "turn left immediately...", and I knew exactly where to look for the threat. The big yellow air tractor had flown right into the middle of my turn, and we would've definitely collided had I continued. I could plainly see the pilot. He had to have seen me, but couldn't be bothered to go a mile out of his way.

    What I don't understand to this day is why he was so high. They always fly under the Charlie shelf, and regularly fly over my house at about 200' agl going back to tuscola to fill up. He must've been ferrying the plane somewhere.

    Those few weeks in July when they're spraying fungicide must be hell for our approach control. The traffic point outs flow constantly as a dozen flight school planes practicing maneuvers converge on radar with a dozen crop dusters 1500' below... unverified of course because they never talk to approach unless they are actually spraying inside the surface area.
     
  6. Morgan3820

    Morgan3820 En-Route

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    Why don’t crop dusters have radios? Why don’t they follow normal pattern procedures?
     
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  7. Arnold

    Arnold Cleared for Takeoff

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    $$$$$$$
     
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  8. jnmeade

    jnmeade Cleared for Takeoff

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    I'm not a crop duster but I'm intrigued by what some define as normal pattern procedure. Back 15 years ago when I was flying light jets in charter, we knew that 0.1 hour was $40. I suppose it's doubled or more since then. Charter was always a razer thin money-flow business, so we thought about things like that. We usually flew the most direct pattern we could. I still do. Many operators have reasons to not fly as someone else expects them to so it's good if we always look for traffic everywhere in the pattern, including, at our airport, pilots flying left traffic on right-traffic runways, our NORDO cub pilot, self-launch gliders who land as pure gliders, helicopter pilots coming in from the hospital to the non-traffic side, charter coming straight in off IFR routings, etc. This is not to mention people who use the radio but announce their operations and location inaccurately. Keep an eye out and Be happy, don't worry.
     
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  9. Maxnr

    Maxnr Pre-takeoff checklist

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    A personal hand held radio is not that expensive. The pilot could deduct it as a business expense.
     
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  10. Brad Z

    Brad Z Final Approach

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    I'm not sure what they don't have radios (or perhaps more accurately why they don't use their radios) but regarding traffic patterns, they typically are refueling dozens of times a day. Adding up a couple minutes each flight to fly nice rectangular patterns to an upwind runway eat up time and money.

    I'm not advocating their procedures, just sharing my understanding.

    FWIW, in the not too distant future drones will take over dispersing economic poisons and the romanticism of the crop duster pilot will join the ranks of cowboys and hobos in the annals of American history.
     
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  11. Non Compos Mentis

    Non Compos Mentis Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Ag pilots are not paid by the hour, but by acres sprayed.
    Not only will they make straight-in approaches to avoid downwind/base/final, but they will land where it minimizes taxi time to their station.

    If our refueling/reloading station is at the East end of the airport, we will land to the East and turn right into our station.
    Then taxi quickly back to the runway and take off in the opposite direction.

    When in crop duster territory, I always keep a sharp eye for nordo, and always give them the right-of-way, as that guy is earning his living.
    I'm just out goofing off.
     
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  12. Cap'n Jack

    Cap'n Jack Final Approach

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    Two different chemtrail dispensers?
    Avoid the non-targeted population. It's ok, you can discuss it here.


    :);)
     
  13. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    Are you sure you didn’t turn into the middle who’s flight path?
    1. You saw him.
    2. You recognized him as a potential threat.
    3. You assumed he saw you and knew which way you would maneuver.
    4. You knew exactly where he was when ATC maneuvered you out of his way.

    see and avoid isn’t just the other guy’s responsibility.
     
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  14. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    Most of them do. Just not aviation band radios.
     
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  15. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    So, that settles it. KARG does in fact have ice cream.
     
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  16. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    PIREP: lots of it, plus popcorn and hot dogs.

    I picked it because of proximity to my direct-to, multiple crossing runways (what wind), and ice cream :D
     
  17. Geosync

    Geosync Pre-takeoff checklist

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    They do have radios, just don’t talk to GA folks. And time is money so they drop their load and zoom back in for refill. I work with them and fly into their strips, it’s always an adventure timing your approach because they’re constantly zooming into to reload. Gotta circle above, wait for them to takeoff and dunk it in before the next one comes back.

    UAS is sorta kinda coming on the scene but they are still not cost effective to compete with manned aircraft yet. A larger one costs more than a good ol’ Turbine Agcat or AT501 and will for some time. The only issue is getting new pilots into it, it’s hard to recruit. There are still some Nam’ guys out there flying.
     
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  18. Sac Arrow

    Sac Arrow Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Bro do you even lift
    Made me Google Earth it. That is one sleepy little town.
     
  19. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    Most that I have flown do have radios... The only portion of the flight that is regulated by part 137 is the actual application at the field. Flying to and from the farm field is regulated by part 91. Ag pilots that don’t work into the established traffic and follow right away rules per part 91 are not doing it right.
     
  20. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    I don’t think we will live long enough to see drones doing the job.
     
  21. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

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    From what I’ve seen, there are plenty of pilots willing to do the work. The old guard who are the ones crying about no new blood are the ones who string the prospects along then give them nothing, because they keep it all for themselves. It’s easy to see why guys don’t stick around when they can’t make a living.

    I just talked to one of those Vietnam vets who are still spraying this past Friday. This is his last year (medical reasons) and he has no intent to bring anyone on to try and continue with the business.
     
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  22. mondtster

    mondtster En-Route

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    Around here, most have radios but just monitor the frequency. Generally speaking, the ag guys are some of the best at spotting traffic that I’ve seen so I’m far less worried about flying around them than I am around many weekend warriors who have radios.

    They also typically land into the wind and follow the expected traffic pattern procedures. I know they don’t do that everywhere but it seems more common than is often implied.
     
  23. ktup-flyer

    ktup-flyer En-Route

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    They already are.
     
  24. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    No not really. There are some flying and in very specialized markets they work but in large scale production agriculture they are a long way from being able to replace a manned aircraft. I don’t think that’s going to happen in my lifetime.
     
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  25. Jim K

    Jim K Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    You're not wrong, and I really hadn't thought of it that way. I had been turning circles in that spot for probably 30 minutes, so in my mind it was "my spot", which clearly isn't a thing.

    OTOH, if I see an aircraft maneuvering, I give them a wide berth. I could see him in the cockpit (sorry, "flight deck") looking at me and he didn't make any effort to turn away. I still argue it's poor airmanship to fly directly at a maneuvering aircraft in a common practice area.
     
  26. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    More likely poor airmanship in not maintaining proper vigilance for traffic. He probably made the same mistake you did, leaving see and avoid to others for whatever reason that may have seemed valid at the time.

    I have yet to meet a pilot who hasn’t done something illegal, immoral, or downright stupid with an airplane, and there are even some that I could see engaging in a game of chicken with airplanes. But I have yet to meet one who would intentionally put himself on a collision course and rely on the other, unknown, pilot to prevent the collision.
     
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  27. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    I can’t think of anything immoral I’ve done. Haha.

    Well other than that one time. LOL
     
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  28. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I was born there.
     
  29. Racerx

    Racerx Line Up and Wait

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    Sort of like how we thought drones would replace aerial surveyors. Planes are faster.
     
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  30. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner Final Approach

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    So it wasn’t sleepy all the time?
     
  31. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    Pretty sure I wasn't conceived there, just born there. Afterwards went back to Michigan, then St. Louis, then Kansas City, then Memphis and then back to Egypt, Arkansas.
     
  32. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    Maybe.... But I'm not expecting it to be real soon.

    The size and complexity of a drone that can handle applications for industrial farming will make it extremely expensive.

    And I don't expect drones in this type of role to be autonomous, either. It's tough to teach a drone to decide not to spray when a farmer's cattle have wandered into the target field, or some trespasser is cutting across the field to go fishing, or there are kids playing, or whatever. And God help the drone operator that gasses a schoolyard by mistake, rather than the corn field a half mile away.

    That sort of thing will be challenging even for a remote operator. Sometimes it's pretty tough to beat a pair of organic eyeballs actually on the scene.

    BTW, spend a little time around a working ranch and you'll see that cowboys still exist, and for good reasons.
     
  33. Sinistar

    Sinistar En-Route

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    Its funny. The guys that use our base as a remote field do have radios...but they are not aviation radios (i asked him one time). They need to talk to their ground guys (fuel and materials) and elect to do so on a different type of radio.

    Since they usually spray when its winds calm or low winds I have never seen them taxi to the other end. So it's either the takeoff or the landing will have slight tailwind.

    I like how they leave the turbine running and the prop is just barely turning when they hop out to to do stuff while it is filled.

    The biplane Ag plane with jet prop is pretty cool.

    They are nice people if you get to know them. Lots of pilots seem to have issues with them.
     
  34. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down PoA Supporter

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    LOL yup. Ours across the county road from the neighborhood hung a sign on their fence to call the gas station owner with all concerns about loose cows on the road — as a joke.

    They have the ranch name and phone number posted along the fences every three miles or so. The city folk out for a “country drive” always pester the gas station staff about cows that get out.

    They probably have T-Mobile and their phone hasn’t had any signal for an hour. LOL. That’s my best guess. :)

    The gas station owner likes to mess with them. “Can you describe the cow? Any identifying marks? I can call the Sheriff but they’ll want a good description.”

    LOL LOL LOL. It’s almost summer drive season. You reminded me I’ll get a cow report story soon. Love them. He always thinks up new creative ways to react to their breathless reports that there’s cows loose on the road.

    Of course he calls the ranch... cow out on 29 north of the station. Come on over for soft serve on me when you get em back in.

    His gas station had a hitching post and water tough out back for the horses. Cowboys get the ice cream.
     
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  35. Matthew

    Matthew Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I stopped on a student xc at KPTS (Pittsburg, KS) and watched 2 spray planes landing on 17, reloading, and departing 35. There’s a single taxiway at the south end of the runway.

    When I was getting ready to depart, my Spidey sense was telling me it had been a while since I had seen either of the ag planes, so I held up on the taxiway for a few extra seconds. Sure enough, one of the spray planes popped over the treeline and landed 17. We had to dance around each other so I could get onto the rwy and he could get off, but we worked it out and I took off 35. I saw then other plane working a field very close to the airport.

    Good times.
     
  36. somorris

    somorris Pattern Altitude

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    A lot of times, the guy on the truck will have an aviation radio (probably handheld) and will advise potential conflicts. Most of the Ag planes cost a lot more than the airplanes most of us are flying, and the guys flying the Ag planes don't want to run into someone else any more than we do. They are, however, used to flying a lot closer to other airplanes than most of us are. And they are trying to make a living and pay bills, so don't waste a lot of time. Be careful out there.
     
  37. ARFlyer

    ARFlyer En-Route

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    Yep! It's Crop Duster season in Arkansas. I can count on one hand how many times I've heard one do radio calls at an airport. Most of the time you're lucky if they even see and give way to you. Most of the time I'll actually wait around, if I know there is an operator on the field, until he lands before I depart. If you do any driving in Eastern Arkansas on a sunny calm Spring day you can about look in any direction and see a one if not more guys out spraying. We have over 130 companies in the state and we are the largest crop duster office in the country.
     
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  38. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    I guess if you’re used to flying 5-10 feet off the ground and some of the necessary maneuvering to stay on track with each pass, coming close to and making an evasive maneuver to avoid another plane at the last second ain’t no big thang.
     
  39. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot En-Route

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    There is no reason for the behavior you describe. Mighty kind of you to tolerate them.
     
  40. Lindberg

    Lindberg En-Route

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    It's not that tough at all. Especially considering that a drone would likely have different types of sensors in addition to visual. It might even determine on its own what areas need treatment.
    An autonomous drone is probably less likely than a human to make that mistake.