One of the more unique and challenging career paths in the agriculture industry is aerial application. BASF and the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) supported two promising individuals along this path through scholarships to assist them as they pursue their agricultural aviation dreams. 

Colin Lowry of Ephrata, Wash., and John Nienhuis of Lawton, N.D., received Agricultural Aviation Scholarships from NAAA and BASF of $5,000 and $2,500, respectively. The two winners were honored during the 49th Annual NAAA Convention & Exposition kickoff breakfast in Savannah, Ga. 

Lowry and Nienhuis represent the latest of what is quickly becoming a long line of bright, dedicated individuals who help growers succeed in the field. With this rising crop of agricultural pilots, organizations like BASF and NAAA have formed long-standing relationships with the goal of maintaining safety and success within the industry.

“Aerial application is crucial to the agricultural industry,” said Gary Fellows, Ph.D., Technical Market Manager, BASF. “With today’s chemical and technical advancements in agriculture, we have to constantly work to make sure our aerial applicators are safe and effective in the skies.”

Lowry is currently enrolled at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Washington, where he is pursuing his Commercial Pilot certificate. After receiving his Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certification, Lowy will continue following the path to become an aerial applicator.

Nienhuis is currently attending North Dakota State University, studying general agriculture. Using the scholarship to help finish his general agriculture degree, Nienhuis will begin flight training while finishing his degree, as opposed to later in his career. 

“BASF has been a major supporter of NAAA over the years, and we appreciate their steadfast commitment to our scholarship program,” said Andrew Moore, Executive Director, NAAA. “Since 2010, NAAA has awarded $46,000 in scholarship funds to 13 individuals through the NAAA and BASF Agricultural Aviation Scholarship program. By investing in the next generation, BASF is helping to ensure that this important industry to agriculture, forestry, biofuel production and public health protection is sustained. This is especially important with retirement approaching for a generation of baby boomer agricultural pilots.”

To most in the industry, aerial application is more than a career, it’s a lifestyle taught through generations of passionate people. This is best represented by those who sponsored Lowry and Nienhuis for consideration for the NAAA and BASF Agricultural Aviation Scholarship. Lowry was sponsored by Mark Brown, Owner of Quincy Flying Service in Quincy, Washington. Nienhuis was sponsored by Jess Brekke, President of Brekke Aviation, Inc., in Edmore, North Dakota.

Pilot Safety and Efficacy
 
It’s not just about encouraging and educating new pilots in the field, but also keeping current pilots up to date on product stewardship, best application practices and the latest safety techniques. With a mission to keep pilot safety and effectiveness at the forefront, BASF, NAAA and the National Agricultural Aviation Research & Education Foundation (NAAREF) continue their aerial application efforts year-round.

In 2015, BASF continued sponsoring the Operation S.A.F.E. (Self-Regulating Application and Flight Efficiency) NAAA Membership Incentive Program, which encourages aerial applicators to join NAAA and participate in its stewardship programs, including an Operation S.A.F.E. pattern-testing clinic. Operation S.A.F.E. application analysis clinics are offered around the country. In 2015 alone, 357 aircraft were calibrated at more than 72 fly-in clinics. These clinics took place in 22 states, ranging from North Carolina to California and from South Dakota to Texas. At the fly-ins, applicators work with trained analysts to test equipment, boost performance, increase applicator knowledge and stay up to date with legal requirements and certifications. 

“Aerial application is crucial to our industry,” Fellows said. “Ultimately, it helps growers succeed, and we’re proud to help organizations like NAAA ensure a successful future.”

The 49th Annual NAAA Convention & Exposition is Dec. 7–10 in Savannah, Georgia. Dr. Scott Bretthauer, Extension Specialist in Application Technology at the University of Illinois, will be at the BASF booth (number 407) throughout the tradeshow. Dr. Bretthauer is an On Target Application Academy trainer and an expert in application techniques and strategies.