By the Skin of My Teeth, A Cropduster’s Story – a book review

I am currently traveling overseas. I had a chance to read Bill Robinet’s book on the trans-pacific leg of my trip and I thought I would publish a short review.


Bill spent the summers of 1953 – 1958 flying flying dusters and sprayers in Arizona, Mexico and New Brunswick (read the book to find out about the budworm project). This was in the “Wild West” days of the ag business – one of his co-workers pranged 3 aircraft in about a week.

The book uses an interesting “flashback” style – The story is told as Bill ferries his newly purchased N3N from Walla Walla Washington to Phoenix, Arizona in 1984. That story is interesting in and of itself (…”it was 3 months before the feeling in my toes returned to normal”…), but from this flight he does flashbacks to the various stories from 1948 – 1958. Here is a picture (from the book) of his N3N when it was flying with Marsh Aviation:

2636 duster

Bill started in the Ag business as a loader in 1948, earned his wings and began dusting / spraying in 1953 while he was working on his Mechanical Engineering degree. He worked in the the N3N, Stearman and Travel Air.

The account is a bit “salty” but it is never gratuitous, it always seems appropriate to story. I had no idea just how rough the ag business was in those days – none of these aircraft had electrical systems or radios. Hand propping a -985 must have been “interesting”.

Here is a link to Bill’s website:


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