Home' Grower : October 2009 Contents The South Australian Grower -- October 2009 1 5
Agricultural pilots unsung
heroes in crop spraying
TWO lonely Air Tractors sit quietly at the side of
the Calvin Grove Airfield at Virginia, in the
As the weeds grow up through their
undercarriage, the wind sock hangs low almost as
if in respect for the loss of yet another great
In June, we lost one of the real characters in the
industry when Patrick Crowther made his last
flight and joined the other aviators in the sky to
help pour down the rain.
Pat was 77 when he died and had spent a
lifetime flying agricultural and charter aircraft. He
was an unforgettable character, as large as life
and with an amazing sense of humour.
Pat was instantly recognisable with his long
greying and untidy hair, sparkling eyes, glasses
precariously balanced on the end of his nose and
a cheeky smile.
Pat gained his student license in 1952 and his
commercial licence in 1967, which was a very
significant period in agricultural aviation, with
pilots finding an opportunity to use Tiger Moth
aircraft to spray crops with newly-developed
herbicides and insecticides.
When you stop to think about it, the two
industries came to life and developed at about the
John Freeman sprayed the first potato crop at
Virginia with a Tiger Moth in October 1964.
Pat was managing 'Snug Cove' on Kangaroo
Island in the early days and did his initial
agricultural flying there. His wife Gay told me that
at one stage he got the adventure bug and started
spending a couple of months a year spraying
crops in Egypt, South Africa, Sudan and England.
He was also the first pilot to launch gliders at
Waikerie with a Piper Pawnee and is reputed to
have flown a Pawnee straight through the hanger
I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time
with the agricultural pilots during those early
years, and I can assure you that once we got into
our second bottle of red, some of the stories
would make the hair stand up on the back of your
neck -- and they got better every time you heard
Pat owned and flew a wide range of aircraft:
Tiger Moth, Stearman, Piper Pawnees, Beavers
and finally the pride of his life -- the Air Tractor.
I distinctly recall Pat showing me his first Air
Tractor and across the engine cowling he had a
sign written 'Beaver Eater'.
Pat sprayed all sorts of crops, including
vegetables, tree crops and cereal crops. In
those days, the agricultural aircraft industry was
a very close knit community and everyone
helped each other out with workloads and
Pat was a great pilot but also a very casual
person. I recall many years ago my sister
visited me from Queensland. I thought as she
had never flown before it would be nice to take
her up in a light plane and show her our village.
Pat volunteered to do the job so we met him
out at Parafield for my sister's adventure of a
lifetime. Pat had borrowed a friend's plane that
was unfamiliar to him, and my sister sat in the
front seat and watched with horror as Pat --
glasses on the end of his nose -- fiddled with
the controls trying to work them out.
After we stalled the engine twice my sister
was ready to go home, but when we got going
she couldn't have had a better pilot for her first
flight -- although she is still not sure if Pat was
serious or just pulling her leg.
Unfortunately, Crowthair, as a company, now is
being disbanded, and the business and aircraft
are up for sale.
As I contemplated the loss of my dear friend, I
recalled the names of many other agricultural
pilots who had gone on before him.
Most of them would be familiar to my readers.
Some died from natural causes and accidents,
and some died in their aircraft.
On my roll call you might remember John
Freeman, Guy Lloyd, Jim Landrith, John
Crowther and Ken Beardon. They were all
outstanding personalities and great aviators.
Pat, fly safely on your next great journey.
Details: You can contact me on 0419 591 894 or
with WALLY SPARROW
Ramco grower Carole Walker proudly displayed the Champion Carton and Plate of Citrus banners
at the SA Citrus Board stand.
one of the
on display at
the Apple &
of SA stand.
The show presents an opportunity for
innovative companies to unveil new
products. Jan Beare displayed lawn and
rose fertilisers from Neutrog Australia.
Nursery and Garden Industry of SA chief executive
officer Geoff Fuller was talking business with Bruce
Liebelt, of YorKreations garden centre, Minlaton.
THE Royal Adelaide Show highlights South Australia's best
fresh produce, and gives growers rare direct access to
thousands of potential consumers. Photographer TERRY
GRENVILLE weaved through the horticulture stands
Hort industry unites
for Royal showcase
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