Agricultural Aviation For many, seeing a low-flying airplane might cause some concern. But drive past Mississippi’s vast farms and forests, and there’s a good chance you’ll see more than a few planes and helicopters hovering just above the ground. For aerial application, or crop dusting, trained pilots emit a light spray of fungicides, pesticides and other chemicals over crops to help them grow more efficiently and boost production. Matt Brignac, of Brignac Flying Service in Columbus, is an agriculture pilot who operates fixed-wing planes. He explains that with the increase in food consumption and demand in the United States, crop dusting helps farmers increase their yield without having to expand the size of their farm. In Mississippi, two different types of aircraft are used, depending on the type of land being sprayed. Fixed-wing planes are used for most field crops, like corn and cotton, while helicopters are used for forestry. In fact, by state law, forestry herbicides must be applied by helicopters if they are using aerial application. Fixed-wing planes can cover more ground than helicopters and therefore are more productive for larger areas. Helicopters are more beneficial for targeted areas because of lower speeds and larger droplet size, which minimizes drift. Fixed-wing planes fly at an average of 130 mph, while helicopters cruise at a slower 60 mph. Agricultural Aviation “Another advantage of helicopters is that they can land right on the back of a truck or in a field if needed,” says pilot Michael McCool of Provine Helicopters in Greenwood. “Fixed-wing airplanes have to work from an airport or grass strip close to the area.” Both types of planes take advantage of modern-day technology to make the application more accurate. The fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters both contain GPS systems that help pilots identify boundary lines, as well as in-flight computers that keep track of where they have sprayed. The computers can also regulate air speed. Brignac says that fixed-wing planes use technology where the base can directly email a map to a plane while the pilot is flying, allowing them to better navigate the area.

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