Jared Storm, president of Storm Aeronautics, received the 2017 Airman of the Year award.
The Nebraska Aviation Trades Association presented the award last month.
“Saving lives one set at a time,” said Storm, who also owns Storm Flying Services in Wahoo.
Storm grew up in a family of pilots. He started flying agriculture aircraft with his father when he was 18 years old. His father, who recently turned 73, still pilots ag spray planes in Kansas.
“ I grew up in the industry,” Storm said.
Along with his passion for flying, Storm wanted to branch out into manufacturing the aircraft. He received his degree in kinesiology at Kansas State University before getting his commercial pilot’s license.
Storm Aeronautics, which opened its aircraft repair station in 2016, also builds innovative inventions to improve safety in the ag flying industry.
One of the hazards of flying spray planes a collision with for ducks and other birds. A collision can shatter a windshield and send glass into the cockpit, injuring the pilot.
The increase of remote controlled flying drones also poses a threat to pilots. Drones are used in agriculture and for recreation such as photography.
“We are also worried about the number of drones,” Storm said. “They are being purchased and flown at a low level. I don’t think people who buy drones realize that it is a real threat to aerial spray planes.”
Storm said his determination to find a solution for these hazards led to the Storm Shield.
This Storm Shield glass can withstand an impact energy of 240 pounds per inch, eight times more than factory-made windshields.
Storm said the process of developing and gaining Federal Aviation Administration certification took more than a year and a half.
The Storm Shield is the company’s second safety device on the market.
About 17 percent of agricultural aviation fatalities involve planes crashing into electric wires, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Most spray planes have existing cutters but not the Air Tractor, one of the industry's most used aircraft.
“They have no protection against wire strikes,” Storm said. “I had a person ask me if we could do something.”
In response, the company produced the Storm Cutter, sharp blades that are attached to the trailing edge of the landing gear of an Air Tractor.
“The industry demanded something, asked us to build it, and we came up with it,” Storm said.
The Storm Cutter earned Storm 2016 Puffer Award from the National Agricultural Aviation Association. The cutters were made for only Air Tractors while the Storm Shield was made for both Air Tractors and thrush Thrush aircraft. The company has attracted national and international clients and has shipped products from Costa Rica to South Africa.
“We have customers from all over the world,” Storm said.
Storm believes that agricultural aviation is a unique industry.
“It is a difficult way of life but it is rewarding,” he said. “It is agriculturally related so we are helping farmers. We help farmers to produce more crops and feed more people around the world.”