A story in Saturday's newspaper about a small private plane buzzing the Charleston peninsula generated a lot of telephone calls and e-mails from concerned readers.
The mystery is solved. The plane was spraying insecticide to kill pesky mosquitoes.
The first phone message to the newspaper came in at 5:37 a.m. Saturday from a man who also had seen the plane Friday. He said it was flying over the marshes and that he was sure it was spraying for mosquitoes.
Seven more callers left messages throughout the morning. Some were trying to get the plane's tail number. Others were frustrated because the Federal Aviation Administration's Flight Standards Office in Columbia doesn't answer its phone on Saturdays.
A number of readers sent e-mails, and several included photos. Charlie Tipton of James Island sent photos that clearly showed the plane's N number, from which we learned the plane is registered to Allen Aviation in Aynor. That company is leasing the plane to Williamsburg Air Service in Kingstree, which has a mosquito control contract with Charleston County.
"We had several hundred calls last week from people complaining about mosquitoes," said Donna J. Odom, superintendent of mosquito control for Charleston County.
The FAA's rules for minimum safe altitude are waived for mosquito control planes, she said. "We get approval from every municipality for a low-flying waiver," she said.
Before spraying a neighborhood from the air, Mosquito Control announces its plans on local radio stations, Odom said. Residents may get information about aerial spraying by calling Mosquito Control at 202-6116.
Odom said residents can help keep mosquitoes from breeding by emptying any containers of standing water in their yards.