​Almanac: The first crop dusting flight

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: August 3rd, 1921, 93 years ago today . . . by many accounts, the day a new form of agriculture first took flight.

For that was the day Army pilot John Macready took off from McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio, on the first demonstration of crop dusting by plane.

Many another crop dusting flight was to follow.

An informational film from the mid-1950s offered a celebration of crop dusting's early days, showcasing aerial dusters known as "Delta Puffers" that inaugurated a new industry: agricultural aviation.

Armed with chemical pesticides, crop dusting planes opened an aerial front in the war against weeds and insects . . . and they have achieved no small measure of success.

north-by-northwest-crop-duster.jpg
MGM
The crop dusting plane was a common sight across America by 1959 . . . a common sight put to uncommon use in the Alfred Hitchcock film, "North by Northwest" (left).

The crop duster's pursuit of Cary Grant is now regarded as one of the most iconic movie scenes of all time.

Happily enough, most crop dusting flights these days are free of murderous pilots.

And, increasingly, free of pilots of any sort . . . as a new generation of crop dusting drones takes to the skies.

It's a new crop dusting phenomenon,
To the pilots of old quite unknown,
It does it all by remote control,
The low-flying, spray-spreading drone.

yamaha-rmax-helicopter-drone-crop-dusting-620.jpg
A Yamaha RMax helicopter drone is tested as an agricultural sprayer in California's Napa Valley.
UC Davis

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