Pilot Mark Howell flies the
distinctive yellow plane,
dropping larvicide into the
marshes in Indian River County.
Pilot guides his yellow plane around Indian
River County in battle to control pesky insect
He’s a treetop flyer on a mission to kill salt
BY KERRY FIRTH
marsh mosquito larvae before they hatch and
grow into biting adults. Yet when
pilot Jeff Summersill buzzes his big
yellow plane so low overhead that it takes your
breath away, you can’t help but wonder if he’s
a stunt pilot practicing for an action film.
In reality, Summersill is just doing his job as
an agricultural pilot applying tiny granular material
known as larvicides that work their way down
through the vegetation into the marshes where
chemicals are released and kill the larvae upon
contact or ingestion. He’s a third-generation agricultural
pilot and fourth-generation Floridian who
literally grew up in the mosquito control business.
“My grandfather started the aerial application business
back in the mid-1950s,” explained Summersill,
who lives in Royal Palm Beach. “He was invited
to come down to this area from Orlando to help
develop farmland in South Florida.
“We aren’t farmers,” he clarified. “We assist
farmers and municipalities with aircraft and
ground machines. I got licensed to fly right out of
high school in 1991. Much like kids who grew
up on farms learn to drive tractors and trucks
before they are old enough to be licensed, I
learned to fly. I really just had to learn the rules.
But then agricultural fliers live in a different world