Can you tell the difference between soybeans and sweet potatoes from 100 feet in the air?
Could you handle the controls of an airplane flying 150 mph?
Could you keep that airplane 10 feet off the ground, apply an agriculture product to the right field, keep the product on target, and avoid hazards in and around the field?
If so, you might be an Agriculture Aviator.
I’ve always called an agriculture pilot a crop duster, but that doesn’t begin to cover what these pilots do. First of all, most of the products they apply are liquid, so the pilots aren’t really dusting anything. In addition to applying pesticides, planes are used to plant seeds, apply fertilizer, fight wildfires, feed fish, and many other jobs in agriculture.
Last week, our wheat needed fertilizer applied to it, but the field was too wet for the tractor. Instead, we used an aerial applicator.
According to the National Agricultural Aviation Association, one plane can do three times the work of ground equipment, which cuts down on fuel usage. By using a plane, we also avoided any soil compaction.
Planes used in agriculture may take off and land between 30 and 100 times a day. The landing strip might be paved or a rough area in a field.
Pilots must have a commercial pilots license and a commercial pesticide applicators license. This is a specialized field, requiring specific skills that aren’t used by pilots flying commercial planes. I looked at a few websites for Agriculture Flight Schools and, in addition to 40 hours of flight training, pilots also take classes in navigation with and without GPS, choosing spray patterns, loading and mixing chemicals, and other topics.
Do you use aerial applicators on your farm?