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Break into Ag or Instruct?

Helicopter Crop Duster Instructor helicopter jobs

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#1 GSPilot

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Posted 22 April 2016 - 15:24

Hello,
 
I have just finished up my CFI.  I am fortunate enough to have two job offers.  I have one for flight instruction which is guaranteed hours and students.  I also have one for a small ag company mixing and loading with what I believe are genuine opportunities to get minimal flight time but gain ag experience while mixing and loading. 
 
I am under the impression that mixing and loading is the normal progression to get into the tight nit group of Ag spraying helicopters.  I like the idea of being able to grow within a company and not be treated like a sandbag.  However I don't want to go somewhere for two summers and spin my wheels as far as my career goes.  At the same time I don't want to go get myself killed in the thing either so I understand learning the business. 
 
The ag company is small with a couple of hillers and a 206 however they are growing and I can see that eventually they will need a pilot.  They seem to think I could do frost protection this year and cherry drying next year.   
 
The flight school is well known and established and like I said would be nearly a guaranteed 1000 hours in less than two years. 
 
Im interested in any input you guys may have.  I feel crazy for considering turning down guaranteed flight hours! 
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#2 helo08

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 20:34

Do you want to do agricultural work or do some other type of flying? Should be an easy answer once you figure that out.
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#3 TonarHerocopterPilot

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 20:34

If you can get Ag time it will open a lot of doors. The Instructing path leads to a lot but it's difficult to get into Ag.
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#4 r22butters

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 21:42

Go Ag!
https//:https://youtu.be/oY-pdk_FWh0

R.I.P. flying for fun :(


Can't believe I got banned from JustHypocrites,...again!

,...oh wait, yes I can :D

#5 Fred0311

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 01:37

I would suggest instruction. Going right into Ag may be nice but if the company runs into trouble you may be left without other options. At least instruction will get you to your 1000. I'd tell the Ag company how greatful you are for the offer but that you hope it will still stand after you finish instruction. Though it may be harder for you to start on the bottom rung if you have other options...

#6 Flying Pig

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 05:52

As Im reading.... the Ag spot is a possibility of time?  The CFI job is time.  Frost and Cherry drying isnt going to yield much where the CFI job is 1000hrs in less than 2 years?  I dont know you, you have to make your own choices, but Id say take the known vs the unknown in this world.  What you need right now is time.....not the enticement of maybe getting a few 206 hours here and there.  Yeah they may need a pilot in the near future, but as a low time pilot the chances of that pilot being you?  I dunno... thats something you need to determine. 


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#7 helonorth

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 08:29

You have to ask yourself if ag is really what you want to do with your career. If it is, then I would jump in with both feet. You will earn the seat, as working on the ground in ag is no picnic. Ag is not a short cut by any means, but it eventually will pay very well and can give you a nice schedule. I tried that route but it wasn't for me. Sometimes I wish I had stuck it out but every pilot where I had worked had crashed at least once. Usually wires. 



#8 Dragbrace

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 08:56

Keep in mind that Ag flying is more of a career choice than a stepping stone. If Ag work is what you want to do for the rest of your career go with the on the job training. If your goals are something else go the instruction route. It takes about 5 years to develop a good Ag pilot, 1 to2 years on the ground to learn the ropes and 3 years in the air to develop the flying skills , decision making and situation awareness needed to become a good solid Ag pilot. 

 

The choice is yours but keep in mind that you have to be all in  to become a good marketable Ag pilot. It is a lot of hard work but once there it can be a most rewarding career choice.


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#9 Astro

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 10:09

Im interested in any input you guys may have. I feel crazy for considering turning down guaranteed flight hours!


Nothing is gauranteed!

#10 Mikemv

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 11:54

With two years on the ground how would you retain any flying skills?

 

Part time Ag part time instruction means you will only fly in the off season.

 

Will you have any CFI knowledge and flight skills to bring forward?

 

You may have to renew your CFI before ever using it.

 

Will you have time off of Ag to do the renewal?


Edited by Mikemv, 24 April 2016 - 11:55.


#11 adam32

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 12:00

If you want to fly Ag for your career then take the Ag job and never look back.

If you want to fly EMS, tours, etc... then go the CFI route and compete with the hundreds of other 1000 hour CFI's out there.

#12 avbug

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 14:33

With two years on the ground how would you retain any flying skills?

 

Part time Ag part time instruction means you will only fly in the off season.

 

Will you have any CFI knowledge and flight skills to bring forward?

 

You may have to renew your CFI before ever using it.

 

Will you have time off of Ag to do the renewal?

 

 

This is one of the key issues with ag: it's seasonal (in most places).  Sounds great until you find yourself twiddling your thumbs as a part year employee.  At least with helicopters, other jobs are also seasonal, but most of them tend to be summer-seasonal. 

 

If you don't mind switching jobs every few months, ag's some great flying, and after a few seasons, you either really know how to fly, or you won't be alive to disappoint.  

 

Bear in mind that ag work does carry a stigma that, right or wrong, can follow you for a long time after.  There's a certain perception of being a "cowboy" pilot that can impact the way you're perceived by some employers.  You also stand a markedly higher potential for having a mishap, which will also stay with you for the remainder of your career.  Something else to consider.



#13 adam32

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 14:58

Nothing wrong with being seasonal...work 6-9 months and make the same money as most other pilots do in 12-24 months...

#14 rotormandan

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 23:51

At low time i'd say build the time as a cfi. Then i'd bet at 1000 hours you could still get a job driving a truck for a year or 2 and still get into ag. In my experience, the pilots who show up to drive a truck with 1000+ hours get trained to spray withing the 1st year or 2 and are usually cut loose for parts of the season during the 2nd year. While the pilots with a fresh cfi and 200-300 hours who show up to drive a truck spend years and years on the ground while getting tiny bits of ferry hours and cherry drying.

Honestly, id think you'd find an ag seat faster if you did the cfi route before driving a truck. Plus you come out a bit more rounded pilot with a plan b in place. Just mainting that relationship with the ag place. Those driver positions are allways open.
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#15 Dragbrace

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 07:48

In the early days of helicopter Ag the Ag operators would take their best & brightest ground people and train them to fly from scratch. This would require the student to make a long term commitment to the operator in order for the operator to recover the cost of training. The training was intense and geared towards the work the student would be doing. The instructors where the guys that pioneered the business and made sure the student didn't acquire any bad habits or attitudes that would get them in trouble.

This was a good situation for both parties and produced many good Ag pilots. The industry was quite small in those days and both operators and pilots that made the grade were highly respected among their peers.

In this day and age there are a lot of dreamers and under trained newbies out there. There is no short cuts to becoming a good Ag pilot or operator.

#16 Nearly Retired

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 13:53

Great answers above.  I cannot add anything to what's already been offered as advice.  Except this:

 

One interview question that often trips up aspiring pilots is, "Where do you see yourself in five years?"  Sometimes it is asked openly, and sometimes the employer tries to be more subtle in finding out.  But find out, they will even before the interview goes very far.  Because if you're not planning on staying with that company, why on earth would they waste their time on you?

 

If you even give off the slightest whiff of a hint that your long-term goals and dreams are not exactly in the Ag field, the Ag operator will send you down the road but quick.  And believe me, they are good at detecting dilettantes who are looking for a way to build flight time before going on to "something else."  

 

Ag pilots are...different.  It's not a flying job, it's a lifestyle. The hours are long, the days never end.  When you're not flying, you're fixing...something...either on the ship or on the nurse truck/trailer...something is always broke or needs mending.  Or you're going into town to get chemical, or gas, or parts...  Lunch?  What's that.  Ehhh, did we bring along any peanut butter crackers and bottles of water?  No?  And being the loader boy is even worse because you get all of the aforementioned "benefits" without the ability to hit the button and go flying to get away from all that ground bullshit.  Like having to go to Walmart after the long day is over to get the peanut butter crackers and water when you'd really like to just crash in your bunk.

 

The operator I fly for in the summer has a Hiller 12E and a Piper Pawnee that they spray with occasionally when called to do that sort of work.  I "help out" when I can, which mostly involves getting in the way because the guys that do that work know exactly what needs to be done and don't need to be stopping to explain it to me when they get in Go Mode.  My experience with them has convinced me that Ag is not something that *I* personally would ever want to do for a living at this age.  It is not fun; it's hard work.  And at this point, I just want my flying to be for fun.



#17 Rotorhead84

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 18:40

Nothing wrong with being seasonal...work 6-9 months and make the same money as most other pilots do in 12-24 months...

 

Correct.

 

Its pretty easy to clear 100k in 5-6months flying ag.  Then just take the rest of the year off.  It has taken a few years but I have managed to land an EMS job that still allows me time to spray during the season.  I feel like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his vault.

 

 

OP:  Ag is not a stepping stone.  Ag is not a career.  Ag is a lifestyle.  I've been in Ag since the day after I was handed my temporary CPL certificate.  The work is hard.  The days are long.  The flying is dangerous.  There is a very real chance that you simply are not cut out for the job either mentally or skills wise.  So jumping on a ground crew is a big gamble.  You may end up driving a truck for a year or two with little to no flight time only to finally end up in a seat to discover that you're not cut out for it one way or another.  One or two years wasted.

 

If you are suited for the work it is very rewarding both in the skills you will acquire and the money you can make.

 

Its also extremely hard on wife/kids so if you have either you should strongly consider the consequences.


Edited by Rotorhead84, 25 April 2016 - 18:50.

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#18 helonorth

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 18:56

 

Correct.

 

Its pretty easy to clear 100k in 5-6months flying ag.  Then just take the rest of the year off.  It has taken a few years but I have managed to land an EMS job that still allows me time to spray during the season.  I feel like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his vault.

 

 

OP:  Ag is not a stepping stone.  Ag is not a career.  Ag is a lifestyle.  I've been in Ag since the day after I was handed my temporary CPL certificate.  The work is hard.  The days are long.  The flying is dangerous.  There is a very real chance that you simply are not cut out for the job either mentally or skills wise.  So jumping on a ground crew is a big gamble.  You may end up driving a truck for a year or two with little to no flight time only to finally end up in a seat to discover that you're not cut out for it one way or another.  One or two years wasted.

 

If you are suited for the work it is very rewarding both in the skills you will acquire and the money you can make.

 

Its also extremely hard on wife/kids so if you have either you should strongly consider the consequences.

 

With the little experience I have around ag, I believe this pretty much sums it up. I would like to add that the whole helicopter thing is a lifestyle. You probably won't be home much, no matter which way you go. 



#19 Rotorhead84

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 19:19

 

With the little experience I have around ag, I believe this pretty much sums it up. I would like to add that the whole helicopter thing is a lifestyle. You probably won't be home much, no matter which way you go. 

 

 

Most utility jobs require a lot of time away from home. 


Edited by Rotorhead84, 25 April 2016 - 19:20.


#20 iChris

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 20:21

Very rewarding lifestyle; however, not for the faint-hearted

 

 


Edited by iChris, 25 April 2016 - 20:32.

Regards,

Chris





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