Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - August 6, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
8 - THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD - Tuesday, August 6, 1974 Tuesday, August 6, 1974 - THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD - 9 Story by RIC SWIHART; photographs by WALTER KERBER The target ... grasshoppers and plant disease. PURPLE SPRINGS - What started out in 1950 as a self - help project for Jack and Scott Kinniburgh has turned into Southern Alberta's largest commercial crop spraying venture. The brothers now head up an operation which features about 12 aircraft in the farm airport. At one time this total included eight crop spraying planes but Scott, who is in charge of this end of the Kinniburgh business, now heads four pilots and four spray planes. Jack is mainly involved with a charter air service and is the chief engineer in charge of maintenance and mechanic work done on the farm. Looking back to 1950, Scott remembers the first second - hand craft they bought to do their own crop spraying "because we were tired of driving a tractor around the field." It was a single - engine plane that had been designed to be a military spotter plane for the United States government. Because they couldn't fly slow enough, the planes were returned to the factory and converted into spray planes. After finishing their own fields, the Kinniburghs then started spraying crops for neighbors and business got so good they had to take out a commercial licence to do the work. The best of the planes being used today are two Gruman Ag Cat crafts, specially designed for agricultural field work. These units feature a single 600 - horse power engine similar to the ones used on Harvard training planes of the Second World War era. And there is little limit to what the firm can handle in the way of spraying crops. "Anything in the way of a pest or weed or plant disease that they have a chemical for, we have done," the brothers say. The chemicals used include all types of insecticides (for insect control such as grasshoppers), herbicides (for control of weeds) and fungicides (for control of plant disease such as blight in potatoes). "We even fought a few fires with the planes," said Scott. "We won some and lost some." The base for the Kinniburgh Spray Service is on the home farm. It is fully radio equipped, connected to both planes and trucks used to guide the pilots. The focal point at the base is a large tank surrounded by smaller tanks, hundreds of barrels and boxes and numerous cans. This is the supply centre for chemicals used to fight any one of a hundred problems faced annually by farmers in the south. Scott uses water and stove fuel as a carrying agent for the chemicals. These are used to distribute the chemicals to all parts of the field. All chemicals are mixed at the single site. Every day is different, said Scott. The lifeline of the business is the telephone. And the customer is always right, within reason. The farmer can specify the chemical needed to treat for his problem or he can ask advice. With all the chemicals on the market now, it is almost impossible to, keep up with the latest, said Scott. But the Kinniburghs try, attending several seminars and special schools in Canada and the United States as time permits. The firm likes to operate on patkage deals - they handle all the arrangements, supply the chemicals and plane and the customer simply pays the bill. But if a customer has the chemical and wants the firm to apply it, there is no question asked. Because all their work isn't near the farm, portable chemical units are available to go to the work. These "nurse trucks" are actually self - contained units v/hich contain aviation fuel, chemicals, chemical carrying solutions - everything needed to do the job. The actual job of spraying crops is a breeze, said Scott. It is challenging work and the pilot is boss. Although the Kinniburgh's have lost only one airplane since they started through a crash, Scott claims the most dangerous part of the work is driving his car to and from the airplane between jobs. Power wires, guy wires to hold up power poles, irrigation sprinklers and birds are hazards the pilot has to constantly watch for. But because the plane flies so close to the ground, even hoe handles left by workers to mark the progress of work in the field, can cause problems. Scott said he has damaged wings, propellers and the fuselage by hitting an upright hoe handle. This is all part of flying the plane. And according to Scott, anybody can fly a plane but it takes a good pilot to do a good job in spraying crops. Part of doing a good job is the responsibility of field -markers, people stationed at either end of a field to guide the pilot and to indicate where the spray must be' placed. Equipped with radio, the flagmen tell the pilot which direction the wind is blowing and by walking into the wind to stay out of the way of chemicals, pace off the distance to the next swathe once the pilot fixes his position. Scott said the height of flight is determined by the crop being sprayed and the chemical being used. On potatoes, because good penetration � of chemical to fight blight is needed, the planes tires actually touch the tops of the plants. The height varies to as high as 15 feet when fertilizer is being applied. And this height is the hardest to judge, said Scott. A team consisting of a sprayer plane pilot and two, field flagmen can do 150 acres an hour taken on the average, said Scott.. This is calculated on about 250,000 acres of land which is sprayed by the firm each year. The amount of land sprayed in a day depends again on the type of chemical used and the pest being sprayed. If a light application of chehiical is to be used, the pilot caii adjust the spray to cover up to 90 feet in one swathe. But in problems that requires a heavy application of chemical, the swathe has to be cut to as low as 40 feet. Scott said one woman wanted him to irrigate' her barley field with the spray plane. He passed up the job after calculating to do it right would take about 275,000 trips. Once a job is completed, the pilot is charged with the responsibility of keeping accurate records of his trip. This is required by government order to ensure proper maintenance of the planes. The Ag Cats, for example, have engines rated at 800 hours. This means after 80,0 hours of flying time, the engines have to be completely overhauled in Calgary or Winnipeg.and this can cost up to $8,000 each time. New Ag Cats sell for about $63,000. Another important record keeping system, developed for their own use and later made mandatory for all crop sprayers by the provincial government, involves data about the conditions at thje time of a particular spraying job. There are three copies made listing information on the chemical used, temperature, time and wind direction and velocity and the pilot and flagmen. Scott said this record is kept to protect the firm in the event of a court action if a crop adjacent to one being sprayed is damaged by spray. s fie weapon .Charlie Hart loads chennicals.