Photo by Stephen Chapis
On September 27, 2019, Warbird Digest was invited to take a mosquito flight over the swamps of central Delaware with Allen Chorman & Son. On the way to our target area, 41 year old Jeff Chorman remembered how important the 75 year old JRB-4 was not only to his career but also to his life.
By Stephen Chapis, Associate Editor
The Delmarva Peninsula, which is made up of the states of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, hence the abbreviation, is located in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The peninsula is bordered by Chesapeake Bay to the west, Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. It is 170 miles long and varies in width from 70 miles across its central section to only a few thousand feet at its southern tip. The salt marshes, freshwater wetlands, humid forests, and ditches of Delaware are the main breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The authority responsible for controlling the mosquito population in Delaware is the Mosquito Control Department of the Department of Fish and Wildlife of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).
Photo by Stephen Chapis.
During the warmer months, Mosquito Control monitors and treats mosquito populations that originate from wetlands across the state, including ditches, rainwater ponds, humid forests and coastal salt marshes. When relatively small areas such as For example, housing estates, truck-mounted “fog machines” are used, while helicopters are used in small, localized areas, but when entire cities or large rural areas need to be covered, fixed-wing aircraft are used. Since 1987 Allen Chorman & Son, Inc have operated two Twin Beeches from their idyllic airport north of Greenwood, Delaware. Shortly before lunch on September 27, 2019, the author received a text from Jeff Chorman: “Would you like to ride in the twin tonight?” The answer was obviously positive and Chorman said we would be driving out of Greenwood at 5:30 that evening.
The older of the pair is AT-11 USAAF # 43-10384 (N4001A), which was delivered to USAAF on February 29, 1943 and remained in active service until January 1953. After working as an airborne survey aircraft at Aero Service Corporation for nine years, the Zero One Alpha was purchased by Chris D. Stoltzfus & Associates in March 1964 and converted into a mosquito sprayer. Delaware agricultural aviation pioneer Joseph R. Hudson, from whom Allen Chorman bought the company in 1987, bought the aircraft on November 14, 1970 and immediately used it to perform mosquito missions from Eagle Crest-Hudson Airport (DE25), a grass to fly out of strips north of Lewes, Delaware.
The plane we would fly on this warm early autumn evening is the crown jewel of the Chorman fleet, JRB-4 BuNo 44633. This aircraft, with registration N5552A since 1959, was originally a C-45F with USAAF No. 44-87172 and was delivered to this service on May 15, 1945, but handed over to the Navy two days later. After 14 years of service in the Navy and the Coast Guard, the JRB was defeated in 1959. The plane was bought by Chris D. Stoltzfus & Associates and converted into a spray plane just three months after Zero One Alpha. In the fall of 1975, after losing an AT-7 in a minor accident, Hudson bought Triple Five Two Alpha and since it got out of DE25, these Twin Beeches have shared the same hangar for 45 years.
Even though the setting sun was already touching the horizon, a pair of Chorman’s Ayres Thrushes was still hard work. Just as Jeff was stepping up the power he was on the radio talking to one of the Thrush pilots who was facing a headwind about Sunday’s schedule. The paved runway (16/34) at Chorman’s is 3,588 feet long but only 52 feet wide, which may seem narrow for a Twin Beech, but 41-year-old Chorman has flown this plane since he was a teenager and looks after the planes with serenity . As he lifted the corridor, it turned gently east-northeast and flattened to 500 feet for the 10-minute flight toward Delaware Bay. We got “wet” north of the small coastal community of Slaughter Beach and turned north toward our target area – a swampy area between the unincorporated community of Big Stone Beach and Bowers Beach, both of which are on the very edge of the Delaware Bay River. As we rushed over Big Stone Beach and the swamps north of town, Chorman watched the AG-NAV Guía GPS navigator, a system designed and built for aerial applications, and when the airplane-shaped symbol reached the edge of our target area, it spun The switch on the yoke and the chemicals poured from the wing tips. Even though we were racing over the swamp at a base speed of 160 mph at a base speed of 160 mph, Chorman looked pretty casual, like going to the mailbox. As we neared the end of our first run, he repeatedly pointed to the ground between us and said, “That’s why I became an AG pilot. So I could spray mosquitoes in beech 18. ”
Photo by Stephen Chapis.
When the icon on the GPS reached the end of the designated area, Chorman flicked the switch to cut the chemicals and performed a drop rotation that never exceeded 200 feet to begin his next run. For the next 40 minutes we made pass by pass, literally at treetop height, in the increasingly dark autumn sky. Meanwhile, Chorman talked about his career in the AG, which began shortly after graduating from high school, and remembered how he met Beech 18 pioneer Karl Stoltzfus, learned the AG business from Joe Hudson and his father Allen as well as some hangar stories about engine failures and the like.
At the end of the final pass, Chorman handed control to the author for the return flight to Greenwood. He took a USB stick out of his shirt pocket, inserted it into the GPS and started downloading all the data from the flight. It will be sent to the mosquito control office. As we approached the airport it was almost completely dark, Chorman took a deep breath and spoke about the future: “Like everything else, the time comes due to parts and maintenance and everything we need to get to a King Air go. I just don’t know when. “ The ubiquitous King Air would be a high-powered and efficient mosquito repeller, but it lacks the nostalgic aura of the older Beechcraft.