Wind Industry Claims Another Ag-Pilot: Minnesota Crop-Duster Killed in Action

plane and turbines

Is there anything to say in favour of these things?

Not only insanely expensive and utterly pointless at every level, they pose a mortal danger to both man and beast.

In the 20 years or so since they’ve spun into heavily subsidised ‘action’, the wind industry’s has managed to clock up a fairly sizeable death count: running at over 160 (so far), which includes 4 killed (pilot and passengers) when a light plane slammed into a turbine in foggy conditions in South Dakota in April 2014.

Ag Pilots – the dare-devils that duck and weave across paddocks to spray crops – are an essential part of modern agriculture. They run plenty of necessary risks, but that posed by an intermittent, heavily subsidised, weather dependent power source is wholly unnecessary; and shouldn’t be one of them.

The risks posed don’t just include 290 tonne, 160m high whirling wonders, but also include the MET masts that precede and then form part of operating wind farms, as the following story from Minnesota makes tragically real.

Pilot Killed While Spraying Crops In Southwest Minnesota
Keoland Television
Perry Groten
19 August 2016

A crop-spraying job ended in tragedy amid wind turbine country in southwest Minnesota.

The plane nose-dived into a soybean field west of Ruthton Friday morning after striking a cable. Investigators say the pilot, 68-year-old James Arnt of Worthington, died instantly.

A bent electrical tower high above this bean field is a telltale sign of tragedy in southwest Minnesota.

“It’s a sad situation, I guess,” farmer Ben Kremer said.

The plane likely struck a wire attached to the tower which monitors wind conditions for nearby turbines.  The plane crashed some 500 feet east of the tower.

“We had a lot of responders up there and it’s traumatic for everybody that has to deal with that, not to mention the families involved and everything, but it’s a shock to everybody,” Pipestone County Sheriff Keith Vreeman said.

The farm families who rent the land where the plane went down are also shaken by the crash.

“You never like to hear about that stuff, but it happens, they know the risks, so but yeah, it’s never good,”  Kremer said.

Farmers in the area have been dealing with aphids eating up their soybean crop, so sprayers play an important role in preserving their fields for the fall harvest.

“They can take quite a bit of your crop away if you don’t spray them,” farmer Phil Kramer said.

“It’s an important job because they’ve got to get the aphids off the beans and that’s the only way they can do it.  It looks to be a dangerous profession,” Vreeman said.

After the plane struck the wire, the cable wrapped around power lines, prompting Xcel to temporarily shut off power to the wind turbines.  While crews repair the damage, federal investigators will work to piece together what led up to the crash that claimed the life of a veteran pilot, once honored by the FAA for his safe flying record.

According to his Facebook page, James Arnt first started flying back in 1970.

The sheriff says weather conditions at the time of the crash were cloudy.

This isn’t the first pilot killed in a tangle with the wind industry (and it won’t be the last). Here’s one we covered 2 years ago involving a MET mast erected by a wind power outfit in California.

Ag Plane Crash Leads to $6.7 Million Wrongful Death Verdict
25 September 2014

When Steve Allen, a highly respected Northern California ag pilot with 26,000 accident free hours, crashed his Rockwell S-2R into a whisper-thin, barely visible galvanized steel wind observation tower on January 11, 2011, a dark and sickening secret about personal greed and avarice was exposed for all the world to see.

The $6.7 million wrongful death settlement the aviator’s family was awarded this month will hopefully help ensure other similar tragedies won’t happen in the future.

The tower, measuring just inches under 200 feet, was hastily erected in 2009 by wind energy interests “prospecting” for the perfect site for a new wind farm in Contra Costa County east of San Francisco. The odd height of the tower is central to the case — any tower under 200 feet doesn’t need to be lighted or reported to the FAA. But because these towers can pop up almost anywhere and are nearly impossible to see in flight, they pose a special danger to aerial application aircraft.

Allen, 58, was spreading winter wheat for a local farm when he flew his single-engine turboprop into the unlit, unmarked tower. According to the National Transportation Safety Board accident report, the pilot was never told about its existence and never saw it.

The meteorological evaluation towers, known as METs and equipped with small anemometers, have been cropping up all across the country as investors seek to cash in on the wind energy craze. By keeping them just below 200 feet, wind farm entrepreneurs save the money, time and hassle of registering them with the FAA — while putting ag pilot’s lives at risk.

“No amount of money is ever going to compensate the Allen family for the loss of Mr. Allen,” said Roger Dreyer, the family’s lawyer. “He was an exceptional pilot, father and husband. We can only hope that those individuals in the wind industry, agricultural field and those who manufacture and install these MET towers understand that their failure to mark them adequately with lights and obstruction warning devices puts aviators, like Mr. Allen, at risk of losing their lives when there is absolutely no reason for taking that risk.”


About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. Any tower near any agricultural land subject to be treated by aircraft should be painted aviation orange and white. Also, the orange balls should be placed on all the guy wires at intervals that clearly reveal the run of the guy wires. There should be no room for waivers of any kind. Our ag-pilots have families just like the greedy rich hogs trying to get richer. Their lives are worth more than any wind farm’s profit margin.

  2. estherfonc says:


    I started a petition “SA PREMIER JAY WEATHERILL : Demand the resignation of the Energy Minister for HIGH POWER PRICES CAUSING SA’s JOBS CRISIS and also 15,000 household POWER DISCONNECTIONS, frequent POWER BLACKOUTS and the JULY 2016 POWER CRISIS” and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name.

    Our goal is to reach 100 signatures and we need more support.

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    Please share this petition with anyone you think may be interested in signing it.

    Thankyou for your time.

  3. Crispin Trist says:

    Excellent research once again STT.

    I recently drove past Warrnambool Airport in Southwest Victoria at around dusk on my journey home. I noticed a mast of some description in the distance to the northwest of the airfield with a red navigation light on it. I wondered whether this was the MET mast for the proposed Koroit wind farm that lies directly under the western flight path into Warrnambool. The site is located approximately 2 kilometres to the north of Koroit on the left hand side of the Koroit – Woolsthorpe Rd. As I drove past the site, I could not see any trace of the MET mast at first in the half light of the evening. I pulled over and stared hard into the darkness. And to my horror, there was the MET mast! Virtually invisible to the naked eye, and yet there it was standing only several kilometres out from the threshold of runway 13, the main runway (Rwy 13 – 31) at Warrnambool airport. The mast was standing there as if in some defiant gesture to say, nothing to see here, move along. Well to my mind this is a dangerous game to play especially as there were other structures around the airfield with red navigation lights on them, some of which were indeed lower in height than the MET mast. And remember that the MET mast stands to indicate only the proposed wind turbine ‘hub’ height. That does not include the eventual blade tip height which could be 40 to 50m higher than the MET mast should the wind farm go ahead. And as long as the MET mast remains standing, then there is still a very real chance of the wind farm being built. It means that the nearby proponent is likely to be gathering wind speed data to back up the wind farm proposal.

    To the proponent I say, either take the MET mast down or, stick a light on it.

    To Koroit I say, do you really want a wind farm only 2 kilometres from your township?

    13. Unlucky for some.

  4. Jackie Rovensky says:

    I wonder how many near misses occur.

  5. Reblogged this on citizenpoweralliance.

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