Aerial applicators play a major role in helping farmers manage pest issues in their fields across the U.S. To support the future of ag aerial application and help build a pipeline of talented ag aviators, BASF’s Crop Protection division and the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) awarded a $5,000 scholarship to Jonathan Aslesen of Buffalo, MN, and a $2,500 scholarship to Colton Tidwell of Lonoke, AR.
Aslesen is currently a junior at North Dakota State University studying agronomy through the College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources. He has earned his private pilot, instrument, commercial and multi-engine ratings and is training to become a certified flight instructor. Upon graduation, Aslesen hopes to make his dream of becoming an ag pilot a reality.
Tidwell completed his first semester at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, where he majors in biology with a minor in agriculture. He aspires to join his siblings as a third-generation aerial applicator at Tidwell Flying Service, which was founded in 1965 by his grandfather.
“The pilots supported by these scholarships help growers achieve cleaner fields and higher yields,” said John Sabatka, Strategic Account Manager at BASF. “Working with NAAA, we also ensure the next generation of aerial applicators receive the proper training and education to be confident and safe on the job.”
For the past 51 years, NAAA has supported small businesses and pilots that use aircraft to aid farmers by providing networking, educational, government relations, public relations, recruiting and informational services. NAAA works with its partner organization, the National Agricultural Aviation Research & Education Foundation (NAAREF), to provide research and educational programs focused on enhancing the efficacy, security and safety of aerial application.
“We’re very proud of our longstanding partnership with BASF,” said Andrew Moore, Executive Director at, NAAA. “This mutual commitment to agricultural aviation and stewardship has enabled NAAA to award $61,000 in scholarship funds to 17 aviators through our ‘Ag Wings of Tomorrow’ scholarship program.”
In addition to supporting students with an interest in ag aerial application, BASF, NAAA and NAAREF have also partnered to build awareness of pilot safety and application best practices. For nearly 10 years, the three organizations have supported Operation S.A.F.E. (Self-regulating Application and Flight Efficiency) Professional Application Analysis Clinic. The program encourages aerial applicators from around the country to participate in additional training through fly-in clinics. This year, approximately 350 aircraft across more than 20 states participated.