In today's diverse agriculture job environment, aerial application stands out as one of the more unique and challenging career paths. In an effort to support the continuing growth of aerial applicators, BASF (No. 24 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) and the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) are rewarding two promising aviators with scholarships to assist them in following their passions.
Matthew Burkhammer of Carlisle, Arkansas, and Landunn Koyle of Gooding, Idaho, were awarded NAAA/BASF Agricultural Aviation Scholarships of $2,500 and $5,000, respectively. The two winners were recognized at the 50th Annual NAAA Convention & Exposition kickoff breakfast in Long Beach, Calif.
"We want to ensure that our aerial applicators are knowledgeable, efficient, and safe in the skies, especially with today's rapid technical advancements," said John Sabatka, Northern Corn Belt IS Manager, BASF. "Our scholarship support helps create a strong pipeline for the industry and enables young aviators to pursue their chosen career paths."
For 50 years, NAAA has supported small businesses and pilots that use aircraft to aid farmers in producing a safe, affordable, and abundant food supply. Resources such as networking, recruiting and informational services are provided to its members and the aerial application industry.
NAAA works with its partner organization, the National Agricultural Aviation Research & Education Foundation (NAAREF), to provide research and educational programs focused on enhancing the efficacy, security, and safety of aerial application. The purpose of BASF's long-standing partnership with NAAA is to maintain the success of these goals. By empowering bright, dedicated individuals like Burkhammer and Koyle, the cultivation of future agricultural aviators is possible.
Burkhammer is employed at Tidwell Flying Service in Carlisle, Arkansas, and is currently enrolled at Almond Aviation in Searcy, Arkansas, where he is studying for an instrument rating and commercial pilot certificate. Once that is acquired, Burkhammer will enroll in an agricultural flight training school to pursue a career as an aerial applicator.
Koyle is currently attending a private flight school through a certified flight instructor and is employed at Thomas Helicopters, Inc. in Gooding, Idaho. He is working toward a private, commercial and instrument certification in aviation. Koyle's ultimate goal is to be an agricultural helicopter aviator.
"BASF has been a major supporter of NAAA over the years, and we appreciate their commitment to nurturing a new generation of competent and capable professional ag pilots," said Andrew Moore, Executive Director, NAAA. "Since 2010, NAAA has awarded $53,500 in scholarship funds to 15 individuals through the NAAA/BASF Agricultural Aviation Scholarship program. BASF's investments in these aspiring ag pilots helps sustain this important industry to agriculture, forestry, biofuel production and public health protection both now and in the future."
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 NAAREF continue to push their aerial application education and training efforts year-round.
Last year marked another successful year in the Operation S.A.F.E. (Self-regulating Application and Flight Efficiency) Professional Application Analysis Clinic. In 2016, the BASF/Operation S.A.F.E. incentive program continued to encourage aerial applicators to participate in fly-in clinics across the country. A total of 347 aircraft were calibrated at 72 fly-in clinics. These clinics took place in 16 states, ranging from North Carolina to California and from North 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.
"NAAA helps keep aerial applicators well-informed," said Sabatka. "These applicators aid growers with maximizing crop yields, and we support NAAA with their mission."
The 50th Annual NAAA Convention & Exposition took place December 5-8 in Long Beach, Calif.