formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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September 20, 2016 The versatile helicopter - for rice and ball fields

The Liberty Gazette
September 20, 2016
Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

After a fascinating presentation about how helicopters work, offered by expert specialty mechanic, pilot, and military veteran Richard Payne, we had an opportunity to visit with Erik Kessler of Veracity Aviation, a helicopter flight training school with locations in Seguin and Georgetown, Texas. With nearly all of our combined experience being in fixed wing aircraft, there’s plenty we don’t know about the world of rotor wing, as helos are often called. We have a couple of Erik’s stories to share which we think you’ll enjoy.

Erik: Ball fields. On the outskirts of Austin, Elgin High School was hosting the local softball and baseball championships and we had just gone through a very heavy rainfall the night before they were scheduled to begin. The head of the athletic department contacted me and asked if I could use the helicopter downwash to "blow" off the standing water because it was too soft for anyone to walk on and they didn't have anything powerful enough to move the water.

He paid for one hour, but unfortunately 40 minutes of that time was flying there and back. In the 20 minutes I could dedicate to the work at hand I was able to move the majority of the infield standing water on the baseball field. When I returned to the office, the athletic director was so pleased he asked me to come back for two more hours to finish the baseball field and dry out the softball field as well.

At the end of the day, he spent $1,000 but if it weren't for the creative use of the helicopter the games would probably have been moved to another high school or cancelled. We not only saved the games but Elgin's reputation to host the championships as planned.

Rice. Rice farmers in south Texas use helicopters in the month of July to cross pollinate the rice fields. For comparison, in third world countries hundreds of workers line-up next to the male plants and fan them in order to blow the pollen from the male to the female rows. In America, we use the rotor downwash of a helicopter to do the same thing but much more effectively and efficiently. One helicopter can pollinate a 300-acre rice field in approximately three hours.

We have eight helicopters available in our area to do this work, and approximately 50 in different locations all over south Texas. Basically, we fly about a foot over the rice plant at 22 knots, and depending on where the wind is coming from, we direct our rotor downwash at the male rice plants - the same concept as being fanned by a line of workers but 1000 times more effective. One single 100-acre field produced enough hybrid rice to cover the entire helicopter operation expense for the month. Our location has pollinated at least 2,000 acres a day.

Linda: If you’re interested in helicopter flight training, or just taking a scenic flight for fun, or, if you have rice fields that need marrying or ball fields that need a good blow-dry in style talk with Erik at Veracity, (830) 379-9800, or see their website at

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