Rene Huessy, Chief Pilot for Niagara Helicopter Tours, explains, “As helicopters fly over the vineyards we are moving the air just above the ground with the downwash and mixing it with hot exhaust gases. This is enough to prevent the plants from freezing.”
Keeping on top of the weather is key with the practice. When frost warnings go into place Huessy comments that he has to sleep with one eye open as the request calls usually start at 3 or 4 a.m in the morning.
“The farmers will usually request the service when temperatures are going down to 3 C, even as low as -2C. The time we spend flying over the vineyards depends on the acres we have to cover, we can effectively cover fifty acres in about twenty-five minutes.“ says Huessy.
The practice has been done by Niagara Helicopters for about 17 years, and some vineyards in California are also using the same practice.
Huessy also mentions, “the spring is usually when we get out most calls – April and May are busy. But unfortunately this is a dying business as the helicopters are getting replaced by windmills.”