The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 16, 2013

Crop-duster takes to skies again after walking away from crash

RIVERTON, Kan. — RIVERTON, Kan. — Two minutes after John “Tim” Kellogg flew over his rural Cherokee County home and waved at his wife on their porch, the oil pressure in his crop-dusting plane dropped and the engine began smoking.

“I knew I was going to be on the ground in 15 to 20 seconds, and I knew it was going to be a hard landing,” he said.

A former mechanic on F-16s, F-15s and F-4s for the U.S. Air Force, Kellogg, 48, had to make a split-second decision.

He opted to kill the plane’s electric power because he had 45 gallons of gas on board and thought he might break the tank when he landed.

“I didn’t want a spark to ignite my fuel,” he said.

He aimed his Piper Brave at a field east of Highway 69 near Boston Mills Road, but he knew he wouldn’t make it.

“I crash-landed in a field I couldn’t see from the air — just because I knew it was there,” he said of the soon-to-be-planted cornfield owned by Rick Jesse. “I went over trees, did 180 degrees.”

The only thing still intact on the plane after the crash that sunny May day was the cockpit.

“It ripped the gear off, ripped every tire off the airplane, broke the windshield out,” Kellogg said.

Kellogg this week plans to again hit the skies over Southeast Kansas, Southwest Missouri and Northeast Oklahoma. He said he’s well aware that his is a risky profession: Each year there are news reports of crop-dusters crashing.

Crop-dusters have seen a tremendous increase in the number of hours — up 29 percent from 2003 through 2007, according to the Federal Aviation Administration — and in recent weeks have been in peak demand in Crawford and Cherokee counties because of an invasion of army worms and muddy fields that have kept farmers from accessing crops on the ground.

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