Madison, S.D. man carries on agricultural aviation dream

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Morris Riggin has always been fascinated by the speed and solitude of an agricultural pilot’s job — flying 10 feet off the ground at speeds between 90 and 160 mph while spraying chemicals over acres of crops.

For the Milbank native and former Aberdeen resident, flying has always been a passion. His father, a pilot and flight teacher beginning in the 1940s, taught Riggin to fly at a young age, and Riggin started teaching lessons himself at age 19. He now runs Riggin Flight Service in Madison, but lived in Aberdeen from 2003 to 2010.

“We always gave flying lessons,” he said. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever really done.”

Riggin Flight Service was started in Milbank in 1961 by Riggin’s father, who taught all types of flying, including crop spraying.

Riggin said he has been spraying crops since he was 18 and is one of about 4,000 agricultural pilots in the U.S.

“It’s one of those jobs that you can do by yourself,” he said. “I kind of like that part, where you’re alone doing a job.”

Though the U.S. has a good agricultural aviation industry, Riggin said the average age of pilots who spray crops is 56, and many are retiring.

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