100 years of aerial application

Today marks the 100th anniversary of aerial application!

Reed Keahey was practically born into the pilot seat.

“We’re like the doctors for the crops. We get a prescription from our entomologists and then we treat the crops for insecticide, fungicide, and also some glyphosate,” Keahey explains.

Reed’s father, Drew, started in the aerial application business when his father Jack took him under his wing. Passing down the love of agriculture and flying.

“I grew up watching him fly,” Reed states. “I was a little too young for my grandfather, and at first I didn’t know if it was for me but then it just called to me and after meeting people in the industry and real standup people, I sorta fell in love with it.”

The Keahey’s home base is Columbia, Louisiana. Only about 70 miles from Tallulah where the Huff and Daland brothers started crop dusting. Their goal was to eradicate the boll weevils in the cotton fields of northeast Louisiana.

This is said to have led to the birth of Delta Airlines.

A small airport in Tallulah has been restored by Steve Gustafson, himself a long-time crop duster and aerobatics pilot. His son Brad followed in the family footsteps. Another example of a third generation ag aviation family.

Gustafson is now part of the Aeroshell Aerobatic flying team. He credits his father Merle for his passion for this industry.

So, what began on August 3rd in 1921 in Ohio as an experiment to treat catalpa trees by air, has grown into an important aspect of agriculture. Aerial applicators enhance food, fiber, protect our forests and control health-threatening pests, and for this new generation of flyers, it is a chance to follow in their father’s footsteps and carry on the family legacy.


Air Force Thunderbirds were the pride of the sky during Cheyenne Frontier Days