Andy Deterding Ag Aviation/Facebook Andy Deterding
Andy Deterding, a crop duster pilot who flew for several decades over many acres of southwestern Oregon, died in a plane accident on May 30.
Deterding, 57, was flying and spraying a herbicide over a field just north of El Reno, Okla., when he made a turn, hit a guy wire on a cell tower and crashed to the ground. He was the only person in the plane. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
His business, Andy Deterding Ag Aviation, is based in Pond Creek, Okla. However, for over 30 years, he had flown seed and fertilizer onto hillside pastures in Douglas and Coos counties, seed onto Bureau of Land Management ground that had been burned and lime onto some Oregon Christmas tree plantations. Deterding worked in Oregon in August, September, October and early November.
Ranchers who worked with him remembered him as both a friend and a professional pilot.
“The thing I want people to know about Andy is that he was more than just a pilot who flew fertilizer on your fields, he became a friend,” said George Sandberg, a Roseburg, Ore., area rancher and president of the Douglas County Farmers Cooperative’s board of directors. “This is a tragedy, a great loss.”
The co-op coordinated the delivery of seed and fertilizer with Deterding’s flying schedule on the different ranches when he came to Douglas County.
“Everybody wanted Andy when the first rains would come late in the summer,” said Melvin Burke, the co-op’s general manager. “It was a tradition for him to come here. His arrival helped kick off the fall season. When you heard Andy flying, you knew the grass was beginning to grow.”
Burke said Deterding understood the importance of getting the product on the ground because growing grass for the livestock meant not having to buy hay to feed.
“For Andy, it was not just about putting fertilizer down by aerial application on the hillsides,” Burke said. “It was about timing for optimal grass growth before the fall rains. He did his best to have the fertilizer and seed down in time for optimal growth before the fall weather turned too cold.
“Secondly, the fertilizer was there and in place when the spring weather returned the next year,” Burke explained. “He could cover areas with that plane that people couldn’t get with ground equipment.”
Burke estimated Deterding flew several tons of fertilizer and seed onto hillside pastures in Douglas County each year.
Dan Dawson, another Douglas County rancher, was a small boy when he first met Deterding about 30 years ago.
“You couldn’t meet a better guy,” Dawson said. “He was a good-hearted, nice guy.
“He flew seed and fertilizer for all of us around here,” Dawson added. “We couldn’t have had anyone better. He knew every ranch in this area. There are so many valleys here and he knew the air currents in every one of them. You didn’t have to tell him twice what you wanted done.”
David and Jill Kennedy, who ranch in the Oakland, Ore., area, had Deterding over to their house for many dinners when he was in Douglas County. On two occasions, he had Thanksgiving dinner with the Kennedys because rainy weather in mid-November prevented him from flying home.
“We’re all just very fond of Andy,” said Jill Kennedy. “He was always just a happy guy. When he laughed, his whole body laughed.
“When he’d come here, he would buzz the house (with his plane),” she added. “He was very experienced, he was very professional about his job. It’s just horrible, horrible to think that good person isn’t going to be here anymore.”
Deterding is survived by his wife Sue and their grown children, Greg, Nikki and Tommy.
Ranchers said it is too soon to know who will provide aerial service to their hillsides later this year, but they hope the Deterding family business will continue the tradition. Greg and Tommy are both pilots.
“We really have a need for that service here,” Burke said. “It’s a unique service that Andy provided for many years.”