Ag-Pilot Ingrates...

stearmann4

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This came over from another forum (the author is friend of mine), but it's a pretty good illustration of why it's so hard to break into the ag flying industry. I'm sure AvBug will agree...

MR-

I've been working as an Ag-Pilot going on seven years now. (WOW time fies!) I've seen a lot of guys try and fail. It seems that only about one out of a hundred actually make it. I've seen many who were given training, and ratings on a silver platter only to bawk and flake out. Or take the help they were given down the road. Well... that is bullsh*t in the highest degree! There are a lot of guys out there who dream of tear assin' around the country side in high powered flying machines, close to the ground ( flyin' low and lookin' mean). But most don't have what it takes to actually do the job. I'm fed up with spoon feeding a beginning pilot only to hear whines and complaints in return. The folks I work for and many others that I know of have spent a lot time and money and have taken great risks to start a new pilot only to be left holding the bag when the guy shrugs and walks off. This aint no pretty boy, clean shirt, Rayban wearin' hot shot pilots job! It's a whole lot of work and risk and it takes dedication and guts. The industry... the work... determines what you do with a mighty big portion of your life. The bugs don't care if your old lady is pissed off. The weeds are going to continue to invade weather or not you got your feelings hurt. If you want to do this kind of work, if you want to be an Ag-Pilot, you get your ass in that plane and go spray. and do it right! There are times when millions of dollars and perhaps somebody else's way of living are on the line every time that throttle goes forward or that money handle goes down.

If you find that you are not cut out for this kind of work, for what ever reason, even if you tried, at least be man enought to tell the guy that's paying your way so that he won't be depending on you or spending more of his money.

If you want to be an ag-pilot and be a part of this amazing way of life... fine. Be sure you can conduct a true and honest self evaluation in order to determine weather or not you can make it when the opportunity is presented to you. That includes your family life, your home, finances, your car, your dog, every damn thing in your life. This job... especially the first couple of years takes determination and dedication of just about every aspect of your existence. If you can't do that go somewhere else and quit wasting time, and by all means... stop whining. It is what it is and nothing or nobody is going to change anything about it in order to suit you. ATTITUDE is everything. Show up here with a lousy, smart ass, attitude and you'll be circling the drain before you get in the door. Nobody "deserves" anything and nobody owes you anything. The boss doesn't care how a great a pilot you are. He's goning to care if YOU care! Take care of the equipment and do the job right.

I hope that some of this sinks in to a few minds out there. We need Ag-Pilots, not whiners or Tom Cruise wannabees. So... to the new guy... if you want to do it... get your head out of your ass.... man up and give it your best. OR.... go on down the road and find something that suits you better.
 

gordy

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Shoot, I've been doing it all wrong all these years. I've been stopping and fixing things when they are broke, stopping and taking a nap when I was tired, stopping when the weather was bad, and showering and wearing clean shirts to work.

Thanks to you and your friend for the work ethics lesson, I will pretend I am fighting the Taliban in the future :)
 

avbug

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Gordy,

I know you...former tanker trash like the rest of us. Let's not pretend we're too squeaky clean, now.

People might just get the wrong idea.
 

TMMT

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Yeah, I though about being an Ag-Pilot... for about 12 seconds, then decided on a much safer line of work, maybe like suicide bomber.

:p
 

avbug

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Interesting comparison.

A suicide bomber and an ag pilot. Both hold their destiny in their own hand, both control their fate. One, the criminal, makes a decision to terrorize, hurt, and cause death and injury for an insane cause. The other, the ag pilot, elects to work hard for a living, feeding the world.

The suicide bomber goes to work once, and doesn't come home. The ag pilot gets up every morning at 3:30 AM and goes to work, puts in a full day (often twice, before sunset), then comes home to a good meal, his family, and his own home.

The suicide bomber knows little more of the world around him than what he's told; his skill extends so far as releasing a button or lighting a fuse. The ag pilot is an expert who seeks excellence in the maintenance of his aircraft, the study of the crops, a knowledge of the pests, weeds, insects, and crop diseases he treats, a solid working knowledge of his chemicals, and an intimate understanding of the limits of his aircraft.

The suicide bomber ends his family line in a horrific, fiery terminal statement of ignorance. The ag pilot bounces his grandchildren on his knee while telling them college is a much better choice than ag flying.

The suicide bomber, if successful, is guaranteed to suffer and die on the job. A successful ag pilot, on the other hand, doesn't have a sick day on the job, let alone an injury. A suicide bomber who lives past his first day at work is a failure. An ag pilot who is injured in his career has made a mistake from which he hopes to learn a great lesson, one which he will strive hard to never repeat.

A suicide bomber simply needs to get his work to a general area and hope his target is somewhere in the blast radius. An ag pilot must be precise, within inches of altitude and track for uniform coverage, for professionalism, for the customer, and for his own liability and coverage.

The suicide bomber can never be insured. The ag pilot tries very hard to keep his own insurance rates low.

The suicide bomber hurts society. The ag pilot increases agricultural productivity.

The suicide bomber has good reason to fear his work. The ag pilot is grateful for his job, and embraces it.

Suicide bombing is, by it's nature, intended to be inherently dangerous. Ag flying is not. Suicide bombers dispense political poison and death, ag pilots dispense economic poison and enhance life.

Suicide bombing is highly destructive. Ag flying his highly productive.

Suicide bombers don't carry a first aid kit, because they won't be needing it. Ag pilots do...in the hangar, and at home...because they come home.

If pilots shy away from ag aviation because they think it's dangerous, it may be just as well. It's a small community, and the ones most likely to hurt themselves are the ones that are afraid of the airplane. If you fear the job, then you've created a reason to do so. Like many endeavors in aviation, it's not the job that's dangerous: it's the pilot. If you find ag aviation to be dangerous, then thank you for staying clear, because by doing so, you've made it safer for the rest of us.
 

stupidpilot

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Apparently avbug hasn't learned the fine art of sarcasm.
 

phr8dawg

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In 1987 I came across a wrecked ag-plane next to a hangar in GXY. It was a bare fuselage. All I remember are the stampings on the rudder pedals which said Vought and the overwhelming smell of insecticide. Somebody told me the pilot absorbed or forcefully drank a great deal of it during the crash and was in the hospital.

How do you guys lay down that carcinogenic stuff day after day and not die young? I know the passes are made progressively upwind, but I'd fear the toxins more than the low-altitude flying. Has anybody done a toxicology profile of ag pilots? This is the biggest reason I never wanted to do it. Just wondering......
 

TMMT

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Interesting comparison.

A suicide bomber and an ag pilot. Both hold their destiny in their own hand, both control their fate. One, the criminal, makes a decision to terrorize, hurt, and cause death and injury for an insane cause. The other, the ag pilot, elects to work hard for a living, feeding the world.

The suicide bomber goes to work once, and doesn't come home. The ag pilot gets up every morning at 3:30 AM and goes to work, puts in a full day (often twice, before sunset), then comes home to a good meal, his family, and his own home.

The suicide bomber knows little more of the world around him than what he's told; his skill extends so far as releasing a button or lighting a fuse. The ag pilot is an expert who seeks excellence in the maintenance of his aircraft, the study of the crops, a knowledge of the pests, weeds, insects, and crop diseases he treats, a solid working knowledge of his chemicals, and an intimate understanding of the limits of his aircraft.

The suicide bomber ends his family line in a horrific, fiery terminal statement of ignorance. The ag pilot bounces his grandchildren on his knee while telling them college is a much better choice than ag flying.

The suicide bomber, if successful, is guaranteed to suffer and die on the job. A successful ag pilot, on the other hand, doesn't have a sick day on the job, let alone an injury. A suicide bomber who lives past his first day at work is a failure. An ag pilot who is injured in his career has made a mistake from which he hopes to learn a great lesson, one which he will strive hard to never repeat.

A suicide bomber simply needs to get his work to a general area and hope his target is somewhere in the blast radius. An ag pilot must be precise, within inches of altitude and track for uniform coverage, for professionalism, for the customer, and for his own liability and coverage.

The suicide bomber can never be insured. The ag pilot tries very hard to keep his own insurance rates low.

The suicide bomber hurts society. The ag pilot increases agricultural productivity.

The suicide bomber has good reason to fear his work. The ag pilot is grateful for his job, and embraces it.

Suicide bombing is, by it's nature, intended to be inherently dangerous. Ag flying is not. Suicide bombers dispense political poison and death, ag pilots dispense economic poison and enhance life.

Suicide bombing is highly destructive. Ag flying his highly productive.

Suicide bombers don't carry a first aid kit, because they won't be needing it. Ag pilots do...in the hangar, and at home...because they come home.

If pilots shy away from ag aviation because they think it's dangerous, it may be just as well. It's a small community, and the ones most likely to hurt themselves are the ones that are afraid of the airplane. If you fear the job, then you've created a reason to do so. Like many endeavors in aviation, it's not the job that's dangerous: it's the pilot. If you find ag aviation to be dangerous, then thank you for staying clear, because by doing so, you've made it safer for the rest of us.


Awe shucks Avbug, didn't know you had a philosophical side.
:)
 

avbug

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How do you guys lay down that carcinogenic stuff day after day and not die young? I know the passes are made progressively upwind, but I'd fear the toxins more than the low-altitude flying.
It's not a problem. You'll be very hard pressed to find an ag pilot who's ever been sick from chemical.

How do we dispense economic poison and not get sick? We don't breathe it or act stupidly. Simply because you can smell it doesn't mean you're being poisoned by it, and you can't compare what you smelled in a wrecked airplane to what a working pilot experiences in an intact airplane. If you walk into a Co-Op to buy chemical, you're going to smell it there, too...doesn't mean you're being poisoned by carcinogens.

Has anybody done a toxicology profile of ag pilots?
There would be no point.

When working with organophosphates such as Parathion, Malathion, etc, some operators have traditionally had a cholinesterase blood workup done at the start of the season. I've had it done myself, and in my opinion, it's a wise thing to do. This isn't a toxicology test, it's a baseline test to establish what the cholinesterase level is for an individual, and this is used to determine emergency medical treatment for organophosphate poisoning.

Way back when, it as common to keep a jar of atropine tablets handy, for some operators (we had some). Some felt that in a poisoning situation, a rapid oral dose of atropine was in order. It's dangerous because the treatment for organophosphate poisoning is a lethal dose of atropine, followed by a lethal dose of protopam chloride (2-pam) to counteract the atropine, then treatment for 2pam poisoning. (The military used the same thing using two injection needles, for organophosphate poisoning during chemical warfare...you shoot yourself up with the atropine, and someone else shoots you up with the protopam after).

If one has a known cholinesterase level, then emergency medical services can administer accurate dosages to counteract the poisoning, and will know given a new cholinesterase test exactly what level of poisoning has occurred. That's the only reason for the test. It's simply a precaution.

(If you saw the movie The Rock, with Sean Connery, the green stuff in the little glass spheres would have been an organophosphate, and describe somewhat the poisoning process...it's an interruption of the chemical which allows control over one's nervous system, and interrupts certain functions like the heart, lungs, etc. Chemicals such as Vx and later products fit this category in chemical warfare, and in application are at much higher dosages than commercial pesticides. However, in concentration (such as how it's received in the barrell), chemicals such as 9 lb parathion are highly lethal: a drop on your tongue will kill you).

The secret is to not contaminate yourself in handling, mixing or application. Chemical poisoning is the least of my worries when performing ag work.
 
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phr8dawg

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Good answer, thanks. Been a box jockey too long to sidestep into ag, but still think about it.
 

dustrpilot

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today?
How do you guys lay down that carcinogenic stuff day after day and not die young? I know the passes are made progressively upwind, but I'd fear the toxins more than the low-altitude flying. Has anybody done a toxicology profile of ag pilots? This is the biggest reason I never wanted to do it. Just wondering......[/QUOTE]

I had a guy call me once claiming I was drifting chemical onto his property just because he could smell it. After several minutes of trying to explain otherwise, I gave up and went into red neck mode. I said, "Look, you go take a huge dump, then moments later,your wife goes into the restroom and smells it. Did you crap on her?" Of course I'm not nearly as philosophical as Avbug, but he quit calling.
 

flylowman

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Drink

In 1987 I came across a wrecked ag-plane next to a hangar in GXY. It was a bare fuselage. All I remember are the stampings on the rudder pedals which said Vought and the overwhelming smell of insecticide. Somebody told me the pilot absorbed or forcefully drank a great deal of it during the crash and was in the hospital.

How do you guys lay down that carcinogenic stuff day after day and not die young? I know the passes are made progressively upwind, but I'd fear the toxins more than the low-altitude flying. Has anybody done a toxicology profile of ag pilots? This is the biggest reason I never wanted to do it. Just wondering......
My dad once told me a story. He had just bought a tired pawnee to replace a scout and was way behind. He got some help from an older opperater in the area, at the end of the first day the old guy asked him where the beer cooler was. My dad answered why. The older gent responded "Sunny Boy you have to drink a six pack every evening so you will piss out all the bad stuff." My Dad is 58 now and has raised 4 kids and put us threw college. I have a great deal of respect for this occupation, I wish it was still like the good old days. Our area had at one time 8 opperators within about 30 miles. We are all that is left, and still don't fly the acres we did then.
 

blingair

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Whats a good way to start out in the spray business? Sounds like my kind of way of life. It was after all the Ag-pilot spraying the citrus trees in Chandler Arizona in the late 70's that sparked my nutty need to fly. Any advice is appreciated.
 

avbug

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There are no good ways to start out, unfortunately because the ag industry has never been an entry level job. That is, the traditional route in involved mixing chemicals and flagging fields for several years while working on aircraft and plowing fields, and eventually being allowed to fly a little rinse over fields, and finally being put in an airplane little by little where you could work.

Today many operators won't talk to you unless you've got satloc experience (or agnav, or other agricultural application GPS systems with a lightbar), and won't be interested without a minimum of a thousand hours of tailwheel and ag time. Therein lies the catch 22...no ag time, can't get an ag job...need an ag job to get ag time.

The best way is to get sold aircraft handling skills, including solid conventional gear (tailwheel) experience. Get familiar with farming practices, chemical application, insects, crops, plants, and weeds for the area you'll be working. There are a few ag schools out there, but most are simply operations that various ag companies set up to try to survive for another year or two. Most don't last very long, and few operators look highly upon them. They may, however, give you an introduction to what ag work is about. They're expensive, as much as half of what a type rating may cost, to the cost of a full type rating, and there's no ag rating to put on your certificate, and no guarantee of a job...and you come away with a handfull of hours that doesn't come close to meeting any insurance requirements. (Even Simuflite has an ag program, but it's a simulator program and you can't simulate ag work...most agree it's not worth much more than learning to start a PT-6...).

A background in aviation maintenance is very helpful, though not as essential as it once was. It's still highly valued, and will make you a lot more marketable to ag operators.

The only way to get a job in ag aviation has always been to shake hands across the desk of the person doing the hiring, and counsel given decades ago still rings true today, when it comes to a job search. Start driving and ask every ag operator you see about a job. Unless you're well known in the business and have a background that enables you to call up and ask to go to work, going out in person and beating the bushes is really the only way.
 

blingair

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Thanks Bug for taking the time to respond. Sounds like getting into the spay biz is like any other aviation job...gotta put one foot in front of the other and hit the streets. I've done just about everything else in aviation and spraying sounds like "fun." Might as well enjoy what you do as a pilot. Sitting here, unemployed-again, makes you think about why you got into the cockpit in the first place. For me, it was that John Wayne like figure who was spraying those fields.
 
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PUNISHER

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This is a really interesting thread. On a side note, FlyLowMan that is the coolest formation pic I've ever seen. Who are those guys?
 
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