Doland resident bestowed national award for ag aviation safety


DOLAND — Mikel Hofer, of Doland, was bestowed The NAAA John Robert Horne Memorial Award at the 2021 National Agricultural Aviation Association Conference held in Savannah Georgia, Dec 6-9, 2021. The award is presented to a pilot with five years or less experience in the agricultural aviation industry who has an exemplary safety record and/or has contributed to safety in agriculture aviation.

“Mikel Hofer began his spraying career at the tender age of four.  When  his dad would head out to the hanger with Mikel tagging behind, he would sit in the cockpit and spray ‘many acres’ while his dad would change oil or work on repairs. Perry (his father) said, ‘Those ailerons would really be a moving  when Mikel was in the cockpit!’  This young man had no illusions of being a firefighter, superhero, teacher, doctor etc...Mikel wanted to be a spray pilot!   How many kids do you know that for their elementary science fair would take a hair dryer from home and present on the Bernoulli’s Principle?,” said Jane Barber-Pitlick, who has known Hofer for more than 12 years.

Hofer grew up on the family farm outside of  Doland, SD.  He is the third of four sons.

“The family farm has numerous dynamics that keep the Hofer Clan busy.  They have farm ground, cattle, trucking and Doland Aerial!” said Barber-Pitlick.

Mikel graduated from Doland High School in 2010, with his acceptance letter from SDSU in hand, loaded his dad’s plane one last summer and moved to Brookings, SD.   In 2013, while attending college, Mikel obtained his Private Pilot License. He graduated from SDSU in 2014 with an Agronomy Major, then enrolled in Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown, SD. He procured his commercial license in 2015, and graduated in 2016 with his A&P, gaining his IA in 2019.

“With Doland Aerial Spraying having only one aircraft, he set out to rebuild his father’s Weatherly 620A. It was a process that Mikel says took hours and hours of patient work under the vigilant eye and assistance of Martin Beving, a friend, pilot, and mentor.  After completion, Mikel was ready to be an aerial applicator alongside his father,” said Barber-Pitlick. “Over the years, I would ride with The Hofer’s to our SDAA conventions and SDAA board meetings. I was never asked to referee, and  Mikel was never shy to point out to his father when he might be wrong, or inform him of a better way to approach an issue! Even before Mikel became a pilot, he knew the  AD’s and Service bulletins on his father’s Thrush.   Safety was always a topic I could count on Mikel bringing up during those rides. Being a younger generation of pilot, they look at things in a different manner than pilots of yesteryear.  The pilots now have bigger aircraft, cockpit distractions, wind turbines, met towers, cell towers. The list goes on.  Mikel and his wife Jackie know the danger exists; she is an avid supporter of Mikels aviation career. Mikel has finished his fifth year being accident and incident free. I believe we can look for Mikel to make great strides in the NAAA industry, and I look forward to collaborating with him on the SDAA Board and eventually NAAA Board.”

Mikel holds office on the South Dakota Aviation Association Board of Directors and attends the NAAA PAASS program at every Tri-State Convention.  He was also a fundamental contributor on the NAAA sub committee for CAM 8, with his knowledge and comprehension of the issue. Mikel has been a strategic planner for three Operation S.A.F.E Clinics in SD.  He has helped with clinics implemented by Gardisser, Chor and Bretthauer.

Mikel and his wife Jackie have a busy household raising three young sons.  Oliver is four, Elliot two, and Gus is four months.

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