With four generations’ worth of farming experience, this aerial application operator understands its customers’ singular demands.
Born to four generations of crop and cherry farmers in the greater Wenatchee Valley, North Wind Aviation understands the benefits of agricultural applications by helicopter. Founded in 2012, the Chelan, Washington–based operator was created by pilot Ryan McDonald, the son of a cherry farmer.
Cherries that are close to being ripe are fragile. Sudden intense sunlight on cherries that have recently been covered by rain can cause the fruit to burst, making them unsalable. To dry cherries quickly after a rain, farmers often employ helicopters essentially as large fans. The rotorcraft, however, have proved to offer more than one advantage for this crop.
For Farmers, by Farmers
McDonald started his career drying cherries for his dad and expanded to applying pollen and spraying orchards and row crops throughout Washington, western Canada, and northern Oregon with a team of pilots and ground crews and a fleet of Bell 206 JetRangers. As demand grew, the company expanded its bases to increase its response rate. Today, North Wind operates four bases, three in Washington (Chelan, Zillah, and Basin City) and one in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
Drawing from its farming roots, North Wind is operated for farmers by farmers. The company focuses on its awareness of the pressures and demands of farming, including weather readiness. Pilots and crews are trained in the intricacies of different aerial applications as well as the need for rapid deployment at the first drop of rain.
The company’s agricultural services include fruit drying, pollen application to boost fruit production and size, ULV (ultra low volume) fruit-fly and mosquito spraying, organic pesticide spraying, and frost control. In the latter activity, the helicopter helps protect fragile plants from the damaging effects of frost. North Wind often carries its operation to California to shield almond crops from ice as well. Its pilots are prepared and trained in night operations, and the helicopters are furnished with GPS and lighting to ensure precise operations.
In addition to agricultural services, North Wind offers several other aerial support services, including forest management, wildland firefighting, and longline and heavy-lift functions for construction and public utilities. A part 135 operator, the company also provides charter flights.