Aerial Aces of Agriculture: The Cessna 188

Written by Jennifer Dellenbusch
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December 2012

The early decades of aviation saw the proliferation of aircraft into many aspects of daily life. Proving itself invaluable in war, the airplane also found use in the war against six-legged pests in the farm fields of America.

The first known use of a heavier-than-air machine occurred in August 1921. A United States Army Air Service Curtiss JN-4 Jenny piloted by John A. Macready was modified at McCook Field to spread lead arsenate to kill Catalpa Sphinx caterpillars at a farm near Troy, Ohio. This first test was considered highly successful.

The first commercial operations were begun in 1924 by Huff-Daland Crop Dusting, which was co-founded by McCook Field test pilot Lt. Harold R. Harris. Huff-Daland was renamed Delta Air Service in 1928 and was the forerunner of what eventually became Delta Airlines.

The aerial application business soon caught on as a quick and efficient method of applying dust on expansive Southern cotton fields to fight infestations of Anthonomus grandis—boll weevil—and it was particularly well suited to large-scale farming operations. The advantage to a farmer was that an aerial operator could apply the material in a matter of minutes instead of the hours or days that it took with ground-bound equipment.

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