Crop duster pilots used dozens of landing strips in Madera County

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webmaster | 07/28/13
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In the early 1950s, pioneer crop dusting businesses were based at local city airports. As farmers throughout Madera County realized this new aerial application of chemicals to control insects and mildew was fast and efficient, flying times increased from the airports.

Saving time and fuel were the highest priority when it came to profit margin for the crop dusters and many began asking farmers to use a piece of their land to carve out a landing strip in return for a discount on dusting and spraying their crops. In addition, the state agricultural commission began offering subsidies to farmers for creating landing strips.

When a plane touched down on one of these makeshift landing areas it could have been paved, dirt, or even a pasture. The skill of the pilots was apparent on both landing and takeoff and many were former pilots from World War II.

Crop dusting after the war was accomplished in the cooler morning hours with most pilots, loaders, and flaggers at the airport before dawn. Pilots, like Ray Pool, George Williams, Leon Emo Sr., and Howard Coones would gather in their hangars and go over the day’s assignments and field layouts. Sometimes they had scouted the fields the day before checking the location of power poles, lines, houses and standpipes...

 

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