Georgia Department of Agriculture

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Ag pilots watch as a fellow crop duster buzzes the field at Jimmy Carter Regional Airport in Americus during a fly-in hosted last spring by the Georgia Agriculture Aviation Association. (Amy Carter/GDA)

Crop dusting is a lot like life.

By Amy Carter

One minute you’re flying along, wings level, horizon clear, and then bam! Up is down or sideways or somewhere around here, and that horizon – one of the few relatively straight lines in this topsy-turvy world – is just plain gone.

Your pilot is cool and calm, his tone matter-of-factly hospitable in the headphones as he asks (coffee? tea? air sick bag?) – “You okay back there?”

Ag pilots make it look easy, all that gravity-defying flying for the sake of healthy crops. Viewed from the ground, the pattern resembles pure seat-of-the-pants daredevilry, flying 150-plus miles an hour, skimming the tops of cotton, soybeans, or blueberries – low enough in the old days to snag leaves and limbs in the landing gear before climbing straight up and banking hard for another go at the next row.

In truth, agricultural aviation is equal parts nerve, skill, science, and sound Georgia-grown manufacturing. Most of the crop-dusting planes flown in Georgia are made in Albany by Thrush Aircraft, successor to a manufacturing lineage that began with North American Rockwell in 1970.

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