BROOKINGS – Brookings County commissioners have given a local businessman permission to take off and land his plane on county roads.
Isaac Wilde of Wilde Air Service, LLC, a Brookings-based aerial application business, made the request “to operate, take off or land an aircraft on any county road in Brookings County for the purpose of servicing said aircraft in preparation for aerial application of chemical or fertilizer materials.”
Wilde will assume all liability when using the county roads, and he has provided proof of liability insurance. He said he planned to land and take off on paved roads to apply dry fertilizer for area farmers.
“As you know, it’s pretty wet out there right now. We’ve been getting a lot of requests. In Brookings County, there isn’t a whole lot of airports, and the closer we can get to these fields, the cheaper we can make it for the customer. … The closer we can get to the field, the quicker we can get done, the less fuel we burn, the cheaper it is.”
In his application, Wilde agreed to notify the highway superintendent, Brookings County Sheriff’s Office, Brookings dispatch and the Brookings County Commission Department of when and where he plans to use a portion of any county road. He agreed to place flaggers at each end of the section of road being used, and warning signs and lights would also be used.
Wilde admitted that until area residents get used to seeing him land on roads, officials could get a lot of calls. He plans to notify as many people in advance as possible.
According to notes from Brookings County Highway Superintendent Brian Gustad, following a meeting with Wilde, after loading and take-off is complete, the road would be unimpeded and open to traffic until landing operations take place again.
Gustad reported a possible three- to five-minute road closure time between landing, loading and take-off, three to four times per hour.
“We like to keep it within a mile stretch of county road. … Any loading into (our truck) will be done on a township gravel road, just like any ground rig would,” Wilde said.
“Obviously I’m looking out for my safety, too, because I’m the one piloting the airplane,” Wilde added. “So I’m not going to land when there’s a whole rush of cars or something coming, because all it does is cause a mess. I’ll circle until there’s a good opening to come in and land. But it still makes it quicker than flying back to the airport.”
He agreed that trying to take off and land during high-traffic times, like when people are heading to and from work, wouldn’t make sense.
Gustad noted that county roads within a 10-mile radius of the nearest airport would not be used for taking off and landing, so Wilde wouldn’t be using roads within a 10-mile radius of Brookings.
“That’s kind of our biggest traffic threat,” Gustad said. He added that he and Wilde would work together to create a map of areas that Wilde would potentially use.
“It would be on his shoulders, essentially, to figure out what areas in the county he would use,” Gustad said of Wilde. “He’s the one landing the plane and making sure he’s safe, but also respecting the fact that we’ve got to watch out for the public.”
Gustad saw the proposal as a benefit for the county, too.
“We are so wet this year, and anything we can do to potentially take the mud off our roads that’s going to be coming off of the fields this spring is also another safety factor that we need to look at.”
Wilde reported that he’s also working to get agreements with other counties to do the same there, including in Beadle, Kingsbury, Deuel and Lake counties. This is his third year in business, and he’s flown for other companies as well.
Gustad said area counties that allow crop dusters to land on roads have reported no problems with day-to-day traffic flow.
Commission Department Director Stacy Steffensen said this is the first time she’s aware of that Brookings County has received a request like Wilde’s, but she noted that other counties do it routinely.
Brookings County commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the request Tuesday, with commissioner Mike Bartley absent.
Contact Jill Fier at [email protected]