students at CAU career day
Dan Gudgel speaks with students at CAU Career Day. (Photo credit Jon Slikker Jr.)

Jon Slikker Jr., Aerial Applicator, Vince Dusters

Dan Gudgel and Jon Slikker Jr. (Photo credit Jon Slikker Jr.)

The California Aeronautical University (CAU) held its annual career day for its flight students and prospective students from all around the San Joaquin Valley and Bakersfield, California. Over 700 students explored a large assortment of possible aviation career paths including associated career paths that support aviation. Inspiring possible future aviators to the world of crop dusting, the California Agricultural Aircraft Association with support from the National Agricultural Aviation Association played a significant role in highlighting the Agricultural Aviation field. Local (Bakersfield) operator Jon Slikker Jr. and Master meteorologist /ag pilot Dan Gudgel highlighted the industry by answering questions and giving tours of the aircraft flown in the modern era.

Aerial Application was able to stand out to the students because of the “large” aircraft Air Tractor 502A provided by Vince Dusters. Many students were surprised that such a large aircraft was used in aerial applications. Many also commented that the avionics and GPS systems appeared complex and modern. The common misconception when thinking about crop dusting is that we still use Stearman round motor airplanes with no instruments and the aircraft are simple and dirty. We highlighted the opposite. Aerial application is more than simply flying an airplane through a field, dispensing crop protection products to protect the field from devastation. Aerial applications require precision, thoughtfulness, and a background in agriculture. The combination of modern airplanes and equipment aid pilots in making super precise applications starts at the beginning of pilots’ training.

The complexity of the knowledge described to do the job combined with the modern aircraft showed students that the industry is worthy of a second look.

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