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Increased air traffic helps timber industry

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Traffic at the Chilton County Airport increased in the past few weeks as specially-designed planes came and went to fertilize area pine forests.

Billy Singleton of the Chilton County Airport said the crews usually come in the spring through late summer.

“Different companies come through periodically depending on the job that they have to do,” Singleton said.

The companies are often from different states, the most recent being headquartered in Mississippi.

“They contract with these timber companies to provide these services and they will use the Chilton County Airport as their base of operation until such time as they complete their contract in this area.”

The fertilizer is in pellet form.

On this most recent job, four aircraft with turbine engines were used. GPS is used to determine where the fertilizer is to be dropped in thousands of acres of forest.

“Chilton County is a huge timber producer, so that is a very important service that they are providing to the timber owners and the land owners in this area,” Singleton said.

The work is weather dependent, needing a clear day for good flying.

Safety precautions are taken. Singleton said this type of fertilizer application “is very highly regulated through the Environmental Projection Agency, ADEM (Alabama Department of Environmental Management), the Federal Aviation Administration.”

Singleton said pilots are specially trained and federally certified for this type of job.

Crews using the Chilton County Airport as a base will serve potions of Chilton, Coosa and Bibb counties.

In addition to helping the timber industry, the project also benefits Chilton County as the pilots purchase fuel from the airport as well as spending money at restaurants and hotels during the length of the project.