Damon Reabe, a third-generation aerial applicator, will speak about The Art of Crop Dusting on Thursday, January 19, at 7 p.m. as part of the EAA Aviation Museum Aviation Adventure Speaker Series.
For Damon, EAA 1014665, being an aerial applicator is in his blood. Currently, he operates two aerial application companies: Reabe Spraying Service Inc. in Plover, Wisconsin, and Dairyland Aviation in Waupun, Wisconsin. It all started with Damon’s grandfather Roy Reabe, a transport pilot during World War II. Initially, Roy operated a flight school and charter flight company out of Waupun beginning in 1946. “He hitchhiked from Mayville, Wisconsin, to Pennsylvania in his military uniform with the money to purchase a yellow Piper J-3 Cub. And back then it was easy to hitchhike if you were in uniform. Anyone would pull over for you.” Roy’s aviation expertise would eventually expand the business into crop dusting in 1950 and the rest is family history.
Damon knew what he wanted to do since he was four years old, thanks to his family’s crop dusting business. “I was four or five years old and walking on the property alongside my dad and I told him, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a pilot like you, Dad.’” When he was old enough, his grandfather became his flight instructor, exchanging 10 hours of work at the family business for one hour of flight instruction, a deal Damon continues with his own children today. However, Damon did not immediately jump into the family business. After earning a BS in aviation and marketing, he moved to Minnesota and began a 15-year career as a corporate pilot flying jet aircraft around the world. During his time off, he still would help his dad with the family business. Damon just couldn’t stay away. “I’m someone who loves what they do!”
In 2009, Damon resigned as a corporate pilot and became president of Reabe Spraying Service. In 2016, Damon and his uncle formed a second business, Dairyland Aviation. He serves on the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) board of directors as the Wisconsin representative, currently serving as chairman of the Government Relations Committee. Damon is also on the Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC), working closely with the EPA to discuss pesticide regulatory, policy, and program implementation issues. He gives educational presentations through the Profession Aerial Applicators’ Support System (PAASS).
And that Piper Cub that his grandfather hitchhiked to purchase more than 70 years ago? Although it fell out of the Reabe family’s possession in 1948, Damon found its current owner in California. His daughter, Caroline, soloed in the same airplane that started the family business the day after her 16th birthday in 2022.
Damon’s talk will center on the process of aerial application, as well as discussing the aircraft his companies use. He will also explain the unique technology that goes into those aircraft that make Damon’s job easier than his grandfather could have ever dreamed.
Thursday’s event is free for EAA members and youths 5 and under, and just $5 for nonmembers.