Episode 73: Andrew Moore Talks Agricultural Aviation – Safety, Technology, and the Future

Join us for an amazing conversation with Andrew Moore, CEO of the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA), in our latest podcast episode. Andrew shares his extensive knowledge and insights on the evolution, current challenges, and future prospects of agricultural aviation. Explore the intersection of agriculture and aviation through the lens of technology and innovation in this must-listen episode. Tune in now!

Welcome to the Aviation Insurance Podcast. The podcast that helps aircraft owners and the aviation businesses learn and understand the complex world of aviation insurance and risk management. From the basic principles of aviation insurance to risk management techniques and updates on the aviation insurance market, the Aviation Insurance Podcast is your guide to traverse the world of aviation insurance. Now, here’s your host, Tim Bonnell. Well, welcome to the Aviation Insurance Podcast. And today, I’m really pleased to bring another interview to you. And I’m really excited about this. It’s a gentleman I’ve known for some time, Andrew Moore. And Andrew is the CEO, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Agricultural Aviation Association. And you’ve held that role since 2002. So he oversees a considerable amount of the organization from the government relations efforts, the educational programs, finances, and then oversees a team of people dealing with communication, outreach, and various industry conferences. I actually do a whole lot with a small team, a lot of power-packed group of people there. Prior to joining NAAA, Andrew was a legislative director for Congresswoman Andrea C. Strand, where he handled transportation, agricultural, and environmental issues, which is what he’s doing today. From 1991 to 1994, he held the position of Manager of Congressional Affairs for the U.S. United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association in the D.C. area. And before that, he interned for the California Governor George, I’m not even going to say his last name. And thank you. Thank you. And then President Reagan. So that’s exciting. Generations of farmers out in California, you earned your undergraduate degree on public administration from USC and MBA from George Washington University. So, Andrew, thank you for being here and welcome to the podcast. Yeah, so, you know, we got the National Agricultural Aviation Association annual conference coming up and so I thought it’d be just a great time to chat with you about ag aviation, safety and kind of our themes around insurance. And so, you know, that in mind, just what are you most excited about in the aerial application industry today? Well, there’s a lot to be excited about. I always think about the unknown technologies.

Who would have known 20 years ago about GPS and how it would revolutionize the aerial application industry? All applications, really, ground to air. And also, 30, 40 years ago, the introduction of the turbine engine and how that has created so many efficiencies in terms of larger aircraft and speedier aircraft. So, you always look to technology to be optimistic about, and there’s a lot of things we’re working on. Even GPS continues to bring breakthroughs to the industry. Now you can attach a onboard meteorological measurement system onto your aircraft that can then feed that data, taking a reading three times a second of the meteorological conditions, wind speed, direction, barometric pressure, etc. and help feed that information into the GPS and line up the aircraft accordingly to which way the wind is moving. So you have new boom systems that have on-off valves depending on, with all different nozzles can shut on and off to get that precise application and angle of the nozzle all controlled from the cockpit. It’s just amazing the technologies that we see that, and will continue to see in this industry.

Yeah, I think, you know, you’ve been fortunate to really be a part of this industry for many years, obviously directly in your current role, a lot of people don’t understand aerial application, the level of sophistication, all the technologies, you know, the amount of work that goes into what you guys do at the NAAA. We are all a part of aviation industries and there’s good ones that promote safety and some of them lobby and do legislative efforts. But you guys in the aerial application industry, we have to deal with not only the aerial issues, but farm as well, agriculture. So you guys are participating in all the caucuses and all the organizations representing the aviation interest, but you’re dealing with aviation safety, aviation regulation, but you’re also partnering and having to address issues with the EPA and all the agricultural associations and then all of those industries that go along with it. So you guys are really doing something that no one else really has to do and doing it at a high level. And so there’s definitely a lot of technology

a part of that.

And so do you find that a challenge just to kind of keep up with all the legislative and kind of sitting on both sides of both aviation and agriculture? It is a challenge.

Sometimes I envy my aviation colleagues. They just have to deal with, you know, aviation rules and, and, and, you know, maybe unmanned aircraft safety and so forth. And of course we have that whole other animal dealing with the EPA. And really in my, which will be 27 years in April, 2024, with the association, the biggest issue that we’ve always dealt with is registering pesticides for aerial use and to ensure that they’re available and to ensure they’re not overly burdensome or restricted. And the reason why we deal with it continuously is because the regulation, Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, requires that every 15 years a product has to come back up for re-registration. And they, every 15 years, it has to come back up to make sure it has, it has its dietary safety. It has its occupational safety. It has its safety to water, both drinking water and natural water. And also, uh, of course now endangered species, which is coming a very big issue. So, we’re always lobbying and advocating for the industry to the EPA. And that’s the beauty of technologies as well. We’re seeing technologies now that can, and techniques, through technology that are showing how, if we calculate the proper, uh, speed of the aircraft along with the angle of the nozzle, uh, we get in many other variables, we can get that proper droplet size, it’s kind of like gravity take it down and not a smaller droplet size that may take it off target. So that’s why we offer surveys, every comprehensive surveys, every five to seven years, which I completely advocate to your audience of aerial applicators to participate in. That data shows the techniques that you’re using in terms of the drift reduction technologies you’re equipping on your aircraft, the PPE you’re using, and then closed mixing loading systems you’re using at your operations. We supply that information, those statistics to EPA, which really helps label products for aerial use. In addition to making sure they’re using more realistic models, and we’re working on environmental models that are much more realistic than some dated ones that have been used in the past, all of which helps to register products. So, yeah, that is a major, major function of the NAAA.

Yeah, and a lot of our audience are people in the aviation insurance industry as well and other areas of aviation, and I just don’t think people really comprehend all that goes into the aerial application. Some people might, you know, think of the old crop dusters, the old, you know, flying cowboys and that’s really not the case anymore. And you guys, I know, work hard to represent that, you know, to, you know, the legislative bodies but to the public as well. And I just wanted to bring that up because I don’t think a lot, obviously the folks that are really directly involved in insurance for aerial application, see and understand that, but I don’t think a lot of the rest of the industry get to see how professional and integrated into technology safety, all those things that you are as an association. So I just kind of wanted to bring that up. And it’s something I’ve been able to see being a part of the association and serving on the committees and boards. And it’s always very interesting to go to the board meetings, which are a couple times a year, and just you hear more about what’s going on in Congress and legislation and in a really tangible way to the aviation and agricultural industry that we typically don’t get just by what we hear on the news. And so that’s something I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated about being a part of the association. But anyway, enough about my enjoyments of it. But so we kind of talked about a number of innovations or enhancements to safety, but as it relates to safety itself, what do you think is the one thing that will have the biggest impact on the safety of the

industry? Well, it’s a good question. You know, there’s one thing is tough to pinpoint. I can name three. One is the continuous education and safety programs, the continuous participation in education and safety. We see through our education programs, primarily our professional aerial application support system pass that we take to the states every year with new curriculum, original curriculum on drift mitigation and aviation safety, it markedly reduces one, the number of drift incidences and two, the accident rate. Whether that’s the actual accident rate total and even sadly as you know we have fatal accidents and the fatal accident rate is reduced as well. So, continuing with our educational programs and what we’re doing with that is we’ve amped that up and we now have, and this is the first year, 2023, a certified professional aerial application safety steward certification program. So, if a ag pilot is a member of both NAAA and its state association. It participates annually in the PASS program. It participates biannually in Operation SAFE, which is calibration clinics that basically test and maintain your nozzles and boom systems and so forth to make sure you’re getting that proper droplet size and outside and mitigating drift. You know, that is, this is its first year and we truly believe that the more people that join in to that program, the fewer accidents we’ll have and the more targeted our applications will be. This year, I’m sorry, 2024, we’re actually adding a learning management software piece to our website. So you can, and we’ll be requiring certain types of curriculum to be taken. So it’s an online class, if you will, even tested on it. You’ll be tested on the curriculum that you learn. And this next year, 2024, we’re going to have the aviation safety part of it will be on wire safety and flying around wires because as you know, this year was a pretty tough year in terms of wire accidents and sadly a number of fatal accidents. And then secondly, on just understanding droplet size and how to get that proper droplet size and how to use the ARS droplet size model to get that key droplet size and align your boom to make sure it’s outside of that wingtip vortices that can kick up droplets. So, that’s the education part of it. Now, obviously, we’re flying 10 feet off the ground for liquids, 40 feet off the ground for seeds, supplying seeds and fertilizers. You’re in the midst of obstacles. And now we have unmanned aircraft systems, run crewed aircraft systems, that are kind of added to the obstacles. So technology again, the development of detect and avoid systems that drones will be equipped with, that needs to happen, it needs to be required by the FAA. And also, so that we’re avoiding those, and they’re avoiding us because it’s very difficult for us to see them, because, you know, largely they’re very small and tough to visualize. And then secondly, you know, increasing towers and unmarked towers and knowing where those towers are. We know the towers are deadly, not just towers themselves, but the wires that connect to them. And knowing where those towers are, and we’re working on FAA to promulgate legislation that we had that Congress passed, that we were very involved in having Congress pass a few years ago, having them promulgate and put that rule into place to require the marking and logging, having a database to log where those towers are. Those are three areas of safety that we’re pursuing that will markedly help. And just one other thing, in our education programs, one statistic that really rings true is 85% of the accidents come from people that don’t annually take these education programs. For example, PASS. So, that’s a pretty significant statistic.

Yeah, I actually hadn’t heard that, but I was actually going to comment that, you know, very often, and obviously accidents can happen to anybody, but it’s the folks that we normally see the folks that are engaged in their state or regional association, the National Association attending the safety things. They have a safety mindset, they want a safety culture, and they want to obviously minimize any kind of loss, whether that’s chemical drift or any type of injury to their aircraft or their pilots. And so I was going to make that exact same point, but yeah, that’s a that is a really a staggering statistic. Eighty five percent come outside of that. And we talked about several challenges from having to constantly deal with labeling issues and legislation and talking about just some of these challenges with the safety challenges. largest obstacle or challenge facing the aerial application industry in, you know, in the immediate type of future or not too long from now?

Well, you know, regulatory agencies have to exist. So, you know, well, they don’t. So they’ll they tend to come up with new ways in which to regulate. Right. new ways in which to regulate, right? And you know, there’s a government or non-government organizations, environmental activist groups that are pushing the EPA. The EPA is in a kind of a taffy-like situation where they’re getting pushed and pulled and, you know, they have to listen to activist groups and they have to listen to us and ultimately EPA has to make political decisions. We hope they’re science-based decisions. We can survive and live with that, but whether it’s a dearth of data, lack of data, and you’re getting pushed politically to do things, sometimes they make decisions that are going to be challenging. Just remember, you know, late 60s, we weren’t really, people weren’t really thinking about the effects of pesticides on endangered species as much. And now you have all these other health issues. We didn’t have an Endangered Species Act, I should say. I guess we did have Rachel Carson’s book that brought up concerns with pesticides to birds and wildlife and a lot of those chemicals and active ingredients are long gone so that the chemicals themselves are much safer but now you’re seeing additional health effects like the EPA is working now on a rule on the effects of pesticides. So you know those are, I don’t see the regulations going away. So from an environmental standpoint that will be something that we’ll have to continue to work on. They’ll incorporate in the 15-year fifth-row cycle that we’ll always have to comment on. So, and one thing I wish they would do and something that’s been pushed for years, but it’s only stalled in Congress because you have to amend the Endangered Species Act, is at what point you have to look at the benefits of pesticides, you know. The Endangered Species Act does not allow for the consideration of benefits. FIFRA does allow for the consideration of benefits. But Endangered Species Act is trumping FIFRA and now some of these benefits when you’re looking at regulating endangered species you can’t take into account the benefits. You can’t take into account the fact that just from yield increases alone from aerial application and this is confirmed in the Texas A&M study, yield benefits from aerial application compared to other all other forms of application, increase yields to the point that you are preserving a state the size of Tennessee in terms of yield production. Well, what does that mean is state of the… well, all of a sudden, that’s a lot of endangered species habitat, right? That’s a lot of acres of water filtering wetlands that all beneficial to endangered species. So, but you can’t take that benefit into account. So, you know, it would be. A benefit to be able to consider the benefits of pesticides for the Endangered Species Act. But that’s a huge hurdle to deal with. You have. Activist groups, environmental activist groups, and of course, they have their players in Congress that we’re just going to stall that type of regulation. So those are some of the challenges they see. And of course, we’re very concerned about the integration of UAS drones. partners with drones and in the sense that they can have a complementary relationship with the aerial application industry and as you know you probably have some of your customers that use them and they can treat difficult areas that are unsafe or add more risk to send in a PIXWING aircraft or a rotorcraft into and drones can go in there and help out, but to ensure that they have the technology to detect us and avoid us, because even if we are equipped with such, such a technology as ADS-B, still doesn’t mean that we know exactly their location and which way to turn to maneuver the aircraft to avoid them. They, at their, because they’re so difficult to see, and we have studies that show that when ag aircraft are flying around drones, they just cannot see them. I mean, it’s clear the Colorado Ag Aviation study done back probably five to ten years ago that that indicated that. You know, those are some concerns. And you’re going to see your growth in broadband towers. Those tend to be a little larger and over 200 feet, I think, so they do have marking requirements, but there’ll be others that come into line that are more challenging to see and that brings in more wires. And that’s why these educational programs, this tower rule that FAA needs to promulgate will help. But those are going to be some of our safety and environmental challenges. Sorry, I went on all along there, but…

Oh, it’s all very interesting, and I think a lot of people don’t have that perspective, and certainly there, you know, being the NAAA for the aerial application industry, you guys, as I said, you deal with a lot of things that a lot of people don’t understand, and I think it’s always important for them to see that you are aware of them and that you have very active, you know, legislative representation, industry representation, you know, statistical science that you guys are working very hard with, you know, empirical data and, you know, with a positive strategy to work to address those and mitigate those kind of issues for your industry, which is really amazing. Like I said, when you just think about the size of the industry and, you know, compared to other industries, other parts of the aviation industry, you guys really are doing a lot, you know, with a smaller team than a lot of people do, I mean, and doing it effectively. And that obviously speaks to your leadership, but I won’t get your back patted too hard there. Moving on to, you know, just from your perspective, moving on a little to more aviation insurance, and you have members, you know, and you’re not in the aviation insurance industry, but clearly members communicate things to you and you see things. But from your perspective, how can the aviation insurance industry continue to improve serving the aerial application community? Yeah, first let me just say, you know, we have a great staff. So I appreciate you acknowledging the staff because, you know, they do do a great job. We also have great volunteer members. So people like yourself that you know I don’t know, I’ve known you probably going back to my first year at NAAA which is 1997 and I you know I only see you at the meetings and helping out and we have a lot of other great volunteer members that are doing advocacy, doing field days for their local community, which makes all the difference, you know, whether they’re talking to their school kids in the local school district or city council members or county supervisor members or state legislators or even federal legislators. That is so important to keep peace in the neighborhood. Usually when people know what you’re doing and the precautions you’re taking, and a lot of it’s based on ignorance, right? They get concerned because they don’t understand. And once you understand and understand the benefits, again, going back to the benefits of the safe, affordable supply of food, fiber and biofuel, you know, they get it. They get it.

Sorry, I just wanted to acknowledge you and acknowledge the staff and the volunteers.


Yeah, in terms of the insurance industry and I think, was it, what more could they do?

Is that?

How can they continue to improve serving your contingency, the aerial application community?

Yeah, well, you know, we do have a lot of support from the insurance industries, supporting NAAA programs, sponsorships, advertisements in our magazine. All that money goes towards advocacy and it goes towards positive public relations and it goes to the education and safety programs. I think one area that, you know, we’re talking about PASS, talking about Operation SAFE, Talking about pass Talking about operations safe we we had a lot of support from sponsorships for pass and in the past They can continue to do that even increase would be would be ideal the more people we reach you know, getting some of the underwriters to really look at CPAS, we know that CPAS and the programs that are required to be certified save lives. And we know they reduce accidents. And we know they reduce drift claims, all of which are going to benefit underwriters paying out claims. And so, you know, really looking at CPAS and seeing that as a, as a benefit and that you’re going to probably have a better, safer operator or in pilots, operators, pilots, operator himself and the pilots, through CPAS certification. So promoting that program, supporting the PASS program and it’s a mutually beneficial because as you know when you go to the PASS program we have sponsors, sponsor slides and that they’re recognized and our statistics show that 75% of NAAA members are likely to support a allied industry that supports NAAA programs. So, it’s mutually beneficial. Plus, you’re getting that educational curriculum that’s helping you operate and helping you be more environmentally conscious and aviation safety at the forefront. So, and then there’s, you know, lots of times operation safes have been sponsored by usually chemical companies, you know, whether it’s the big five or seven, they are, however many there are now the big ones, EASF, Accenture, Corteva, Bayer, FMC, um, sorry if I missed one, but you know, they’ve sponsored in the past operation safe programs, but that’s beneficial to insurance companies too. So maybe looking at insuring some of the state, or I’m sorry, sponsoring some of the state operation safe programs. So the more people that participate, the better it’s going to be. Just like the more people that participate with NAAA, we’re going to be more effective in our advocacy programs, our education safety programs, and our public relations programs.

Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, the operation safe. That’s something that if you’re in the aviation industries really need to check out. I mean, so, you know, typically, you know, the aircraft are flying. So it could be an airport or a nearby farm and, you know, they put water basically in the hoppers and die and they’re flying different patterns to see how their swath of as Andrew was referring to the droplet size comes out in order to really dial in the precision of their nozzles to avoid drift and all these things. It gets very technical, but that’s my nickel explanation. But just to be a part of that is very fascinating to watch it and certainly volunteer at it. So I think all those are good things, and I definitely appreciate you guys’ continued effort to improve safety and the operations of your members. We’re recording this interview, we’re just very near to the NAAA’s annual convention being held here starting in the first weekend of December in Palm Springs, California. Anything you want to speak to as to exciting things to expect from that convention or anything you’re looking forward to there?

Oh yeah, we have a great agenda planned. We have Bert Rutan, who’s arguably one of the greatest aeronautical engineers in aviation’s history, you know, developer of Spaceship One and the Voyager, you know, the first non, the first commercial aircraft in space was Spaceship One and Voyager, the travel around the world with one tank of gas, basically. You know, he’s an amazing aeronautical engineer. He’ll be speaking in our general session. We have the head of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, Ed Messina, speaking. Terry Kipley, who’s head of the adjuvant manufacturers, is going to talk about some of their certification programs and how adjuvants are coming along. safety panel that’s going to talk about ensuring that how to ensure safe operations you know coming after a swath run or going into a swath run don’t want to lose air over that wing you know when you’re when you’re flying ag and and that’s led by Fran De Cock who owns an aviation school up in Canada very reputable ag pilot school. He’ll be leading that session. We probably have two dozen different concurrent sessions from chemicals to insurance, to precision agriculture, the different ag aircraft manufacturers, GPS manufacturers, engine manufacturers will be offering concurrent sessions. And a lot of it get have qualified in multiple states, probably over half the country are offering CEUs, which go towards continuing, uh, those continuing education units you need or ag pilots need to, to get their, uh, commercial pesticide license every year through their state authorities. So, uh, great auction. Then haven’t even mentioned the exhibit hall. So we’re going to have all the cutting edge equipment and services and parts for the aerial application industry. It’s the largest program. It’s the largest trade show in the world for aerial application. And it’s in Palm Springs, California. It’s arguably, my parents would go to Palm Springs, but my family and I, we grew up for four generations farming in the central valley of California outside of Bakersfield, but in the winter we go up to Palm Springs and It’s just gorgeous weather Santa Rosa Mountains are beautiful And it’s gonna be getting chilly Around the rest of the country at that time, you know


Trust me. It’s Gorgeous setting it’s dry, it’s just, there’s a great aviation museum just down the road too. So tons of great stuff going on.

Absolutely. It’s always a great program. You guys always come up with really good speakers. And then there’s other things that you didn’t even mention. For instance, people who are either wanting to get into operating an egg, there’s some introductory sessions and there’s education and safety sessions for newer pilots and operators. So you could go on and on. Those are just being the insurance person and participating in some of those thought I’d mentioned. But it looks like another great one. I’ve been to most of them for the last couple decades and my dad before that. So looking forward to seeing you there and appreciate all you guys do. So I want to be respectful of your time today. Really appreciate you coming on here, sharing your information and knowledge. I think I’m just excited to, you know, to not only have you on, but to have more people understand all that it is the aerial application industry does, all that the NAAA does, and all these initiatives working towards safety, working towards improving operations and lowering risk, and, you know, improving efficiencies and all those things. So just want to thank you again for taking your time, being a guest here today, and definitely look forward to seeing you in Palm Springs.

Well, thank you. And, you know, I’m optimistic about the industry. You know, I used to work on the Hill, as you mentioned, and there was a chairman of the Ag Committee. He was a Hispanic man, a congressman from the Rio Grande Valley there. His name was Kiko De La Garza and he was, he was, he was good man. And he’d always say, people got to eat, you know, people that I eat, you know, and we’re getting a lot more people on this planet. And now you’re seeing corn turned in ethanol and clean fuel and biodiesel from soybeans and a growing population. So there’s a lot to be optimistic about with this industry. And I just want to thank you and you know, you’re multiple generations too now in this industry, Tim. So thank you so much for having me and all you do.

Yeah, it’s my pleasure. And again, we’ll look forward to seeing you here that first weekend in December in Palm Springs for the NAAA convention. And if you want information about the NAAA, you can check out the website at agaviation.org. But that’s all for this episode. Join us again next time as we continue navigating the waypoints in aviation insurance. So until then, enjoy clear skies and unlimited visibility. Thanks for listening to the Aviation Insurance Podcast. If you found this episode of value, please share it with someone who would benefit from this information. Don’t forget to subscribe in your podcast player so you don’t miss any new episodes and to help our show have more impact. This episode is brought to you by AERIS Insurance Solutions, your flight plan for navigating the turbulence of aviation insurance. For more information, visit aerisinsurance.com. That is www.aerisinsurance.com. Disclaimer, these episodes are for educational purposes only and due to the changing regulatory and legal nature of the business, some information may change over time. Having a well-educated and experienced aviation insurance broker on your team is an absolute requirement to success in business is an absolute requirement to success in business and for managing your aircraft and aviation business risks.

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