While our rural roads aren’t nearly as busy as they will be a month or so from now when harvest begins, there is still a lot of equipment activity to watch out for as you travel the grids these days as many farmers are working on spraying and haying.
While most people are clear what to do when they encounter a big sprayer taking up most of the road, some may not be sure what to do when they see an airplane landing on the grid road.
When the spray planes are working in an area, they often set up a staging point where they land between jobs. The grid roads are used to take off and land and signage is placed to let traffic know to watch for them.
When you see those signs, stop and look for the spray planes. Not only on the road ahead, but look up to see if one is about to land. Keep in mind that they are also watching for traffic and should you be already travelling on the portion of road they are coming in for a landing on, they can see you and will hold off until you have passed through.
Pulling your vehicle over to the shoulder still blocks their path, as the wing span of the airplanes need the full width of the road. Even if they could get by you on a wider grid road, they can’t attempt that for safety reasons.
Brennan Jardine, of Brennan Jardine’s Aerial Spraying, is one of those pilots that is frequently seen throughout the region spraying crops for farmers. Brennan told Nipawin News that using the staging points and grid roads enables major savings compared to flying in and out of the Nipawin Airport. He can then pass those savings on to the farmers who hire him by offering competitive rates, often lower than his competition. With three spray planes on the go, that fuel cost savings really adds up.
But using the grid roads doesn’t come without it’s headaches.
Communication with RM staff is key. Schedules can conflict and if they are flying off a road the grader needs to work on, communication is all it takes to allow the grader operator time to do his job without creating hazards or excessive down time for the planes.
Another problem that can interrupt a day’s work for Brennan is complaints. Not complaints about anything he has done wrong, just local residents who aren’t aware that spray planes taking off and landing on the grid roads is only done in the municipalities that permit it. In the case of the RM of Torch River, a neighbour had objected when Brennan was flying out of his home base and extensive time had to be spent clarifying the by-laws. In the end, he confirmed with the RM that it is permitted.
The only current regulation that could affect the practice of using grid roads for airstrips is one that prohibits anyone from blocking a road off. As long as traffic can still travel on the road he is using, there is no by-law against it.
While you may have to wait a few minutes while one of Brennan’s spray planes occupies the road, they take off and land quite quickly and chances are you’ll spend less time than if you had to follow a slow moving combine down that same stretch of road.