Chopper [pollen] Dropper
“What we are doing is acting like a giant bumblebee.”
CENTRAL WASHINGTON’S sprawling apple orchards owe their success not just to Mother Nature’s bounty, but also to the dedicated efforts of North Wind Aviation. Hovering above the lush landscapes, North Wind Aviation and its team of skilled helicopter pilots play a vital role in ensuring high-quality fruit reaches consumers’ hands. Ryan McDonald, the owner of this innovative company, takes pride in orchestrating unique flights that aid pollinators in their crucial mission.
Pollination is the essential process by which pollen from the male parts of a blossom travels to the female parts, kickstarting fertilization and ultimately leading to the development of juicy apples. In the wild, bees, butterflies, and birds are the unsung heroes behind this process. However, North Wind Aviation’s helicopter pilots soar to the skies to support these pollinators in their vital tasks.
“Hovering around is blowing a lot of air, and so what we are doing is acting like a giant bumblebee,” explains McDonald. While bees are exceptional pollinators, the helicopters make their job easier by reducing travel distances across vast orchards. As a bee lands on a blossom, it collects the excess pollen spread by the helicopters and carries it to another bloom, effectively completing the pollination process. This cross-pollination between separate trees is essential for growing big, flavorful fruit everyone loves.
The timing of pollination is crucial. Determining when an orchard is ready for this aerial dance is where North Wind Aviation relies on the expertise of seasoned fieldmen like Dan Winship. With extensive experience in the tree fruit industry, Winship’s discerning eye ensures that the orchards are in prime condition before the helicopters swoop in.
The helicopter pollination process unfolds with precision. A pilot and co-pilot take to the skies above the orchard. The co-pilot dispenses pre-metered packages of pollen into a funnel that feeds into a tube leading to the bottom of the helicopter. From there, the pollen is scattered across the orchard by the powerful gusts of air generated by the helicopter blades. Surprisingly, only 30 to 40 grams of pollen per acre of land are sufficient to work its magic, a testament to the potency of this yellow powder in growing some of the world’s finest fruit.
The meticulous teamwork involved in producing tree fruit cannot be understated. Every member of North Wind Aviation’s team plays a vital role in bringing apples to market, from the dedicated fieldmen assessing the orchards’ readiness to the skilled helicopter pilots performing their impressive maneuvers. McDonald’s passion for the industry and commitment to excellence have made North Wind Aviation an indispensable partner for apple growers across central Washington. Their aerial assistance, akin to a gentle breeze of life, has transformed the region’s orchards into a fruitful oasis. Thanks to their skill and dedication, consumers can continue to savor the taste of crisp, juicy apples grown with care and precision.
The story of North Wind Aviation is one of innovation and cooperation, where man and nature work hand in hand to produce the finest fruit imaginable. As we enjoy the delectable apples from the shelves, let us not forget the high-flying efforts that make this extraordinary harvest possible.