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Entry Level Ag work


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I'm guessing "rated, low hour pilot" means CFII under 1000hrs? Entry level jobs are rarely ever posted, you have to either know someone, or just simply drive around and inquire with these operators in person!

 

For what its worth last month there was an ad on JH from an AG company looking for a truck driver. If you have a CDL that is a good way in,...so I've been told.

Edited by eagle5
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You won't get hire to fly any ag work. Even with 1000+ hr but no ag experience. You should find out where the operators are that you want to work at and go talk to them or at least call them and shoot for a ground position. That's the most common way to get into ag. It's hard to find operators because many don't have websites. The NAAA website helps and there's one for each state; CAAA for Colorado or California. Ag work is usually posted in the late winter - spring if at all. Good luck.

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I dont fly Ag, but the issue with your time is that getting hired to be a ground crew, is just that..... you have a job to do as a ground crew. Its not a pilot training position. You are in the same boat as everyone else. Build time and then specialize when the chance comes. Unless you are somehow connected to an Ag operator, there is no quick way in I doubt. At 259hrs, You would be dead after your first couple of passes.

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Having some experience with an operator on the ground mixing and fueling would go a long way to getting into the ag business. That being said, ag is no joke and without a doubt is some of the most dangerous and grueling flying you can do.

 

You will have times in your career where you are in over your head. Anyone who disagrees hasn't flown for a commercial operator. Everything from teaching auto's, to flying your first tour in a helicopter you don't have much time in, to slinging your first load of Christmas trees. The trick is; don't let yourself get WAY in over your head......like doing ag work at 250 hours.

 

It takes time, but keep doing the CFI gig and try to crack into tours in a bigger helicopter. I've heard a lot of guys say they are trying to "avoid having to go do tours in Vegas or Alaska." I can only speak for myself, but when I did it, I had tons of fun and it allows you to learn a more complex aircraft without having a very complex job to do.

 

Enjoy the ride!

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Cut your teeth and prove your worth on the nurse truck, in time ( a year or 2) they will let you ferry and eventually do 137 ops. Knocking on doors is your best bet, once you land the job you have to work your but off to prove you're worth the owner taking a chance on you.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Every AG operator I have talked to wants you to be on the ground for minimum of 1 year but up to 5 years. You have to know the whole operation inside and out from the ground up. You have to know exactly what every crew member is doing so in order to help eliminate any mistakes. Once this has been done then you will be showed how to operate the aircraft and nav systems then start doing clean outs and ferrying. Back in the day it was not unheard of for most AG pilots to start out with as little as 150hrs. It's not AG work but, I know a female pilot who started flying her Dad's Huey and logging the day after her Comm checkride. If your serious about being an AG pilot, I would recommend getting your Class A CDL with Hazmat and tanker endorsements. Start driving truck and working on the ground.

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  • 6 months later...

Ag pilot here.

 

 

What everyone else is saying is basically correct. You're going to start out on a truck if you've never previously flown ag before. It is a good place to learn. You'll be amazed what you actually learned by watching another ag pilot when its finally your turn.

 

 

The work is hard and usually shitty, the season is long, and the job will kill you in a blink of an eye. But the pay is very good (as far as rotor pilots go) and having the off season to do whatever you want is nice.

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  • 3 weeks later...

A fresh cdl would be fine.

 

I talked with Applebee Aviation back in 2012 when I was fresh out of CDL School with Class A Hazmat/tankers endorsed. They do some Ag work, but It sounded like they wanted their drivers/groundcrew to have experience driving log trucks. I guess they do a lot of forestry type work and don't want you smoking the clutch out on their trucks :)

Edited by hooked4life
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At 259hrs, You would be dead after your first couple of passes.

 

Isn't this a little bit dramatic? Are you saying a 259 hr pilot is not capable of piloting a helicopter close to the ground and making sure they avoid hitting stuff? I feel like thats what Ag flying boils down to.

 

I was very blessed to be given an Ag job when I had very low time, yet here I am. When I went through Ag training I was not taught some magical new skill to keep me alive. I was taught to combine several skills into to one very fast paced job. Yes, it can kill you before you know what happened, but to say that someone with low time cannot will kill themselves is not giving that pilot enough credit.

 

I am going to stop ranting now because this is just bringing back old feeling I had when I first came into the industry. I knew I was going to be flying Ag, I was the one responsible for getting the business started where I am working, so I made as many calls to older pilots as I could for advice. What I got was people telling me not to do it. That was not helpful. What I needed and found from a few people was solid advice and cautions because I was so low time. I knew that I was getting into something that could kill me, couldn't any job in the industry do the same? I am thankful for the more seasoned pilots who told me how to stay alive instead of just calling me crazy and that I was going to kill myself.

 

That being said, yes the best way to get into Ag is by working on the ground. Also go to any conferences or conventions you can and meet people and network.

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  • 1 month later...

try looking for an operator that does utility and ag. may be good to start in utility and work the ag ground side and break into it. But seriosly go knock on doors of ag businesses. you'll be surprised how much hard work and persistance will mean to people. Finding good help is hard and if you are willing to learn and bust your ass good things will happen. Getting AG time is hard but once you do, there is so many opportunities! Start by getting licensed in your state and maybe the ones around you.

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  • 3 years later...

Ok sorry for reviving this thread but some of the things these guys are saying is just ridiculous. Ive worked on a farm for the past 4 years and after highschool I went to flight school for helicopters (obviously). I have roughly over 150 hours with private and commercial licenses, but Ive already been spending many of those commercial building hours practicing ag turns and low sweeps over fields (dual). I can tell you its not as hard as people make it out to be, as long as you are aware of your surroundings and can positively maneuver the helicopter with full control, then you can do it. I know a couple Ag pilots and talked to them on how pilots usually get into the business, he said that he himself (along with most companies) hire you as ground crew and in the off season, you might go practice with an ag pilot and get training hours in (whether or not you pay for it, idk but thats besides the point) The problem with having low hours is that insurance cost to insure you is insane (pilot with 600ish hours and minimal ag experience is about an extra $5,000 to insure...) and that is a cost that an owner doesnt seem beneficial enough to him to foot that bill and risk his equipment. Its not necessarily about how many hours you have total, its about how many you have in specific aircraft and in ag work (counting off season training hours). If you want to be a ag pilot in R44s (like myself) then CFI just doesnt offer those type of hours as CFI usually just racks you up hours in R22 which is not completely beneficial to you. but the upside of CFI is that if your school you teach at offers tours, then you will have a foot in for those R44 tours (or turbine, depending on what your company uses for tours) so bottom line is to get a low hour job like tours to rack up those R44 hours and then down the line, start searching for cherry drying, pollination, or even frost control gigs (those will help you rack up your "ag" hours) until you get about 1000 in desired aircraft with a large portion of it technically being "ag". This is probably the best route if you cannot buy your own helicopter like the guy I know did.... Hope this helps a little, Good Luck!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ok sorry for reviving this thread but some of the things these guys are saying is just ridiculous. Ive worked on a farm for the past 4 years and after highschool I went to flight school for helicopters (obviously). I have roughly over 150 hours with private and commercial licenses, but Ive already been spending many of those commercial building hours practicing ag turns and low sweeps over fields (dual). I can tell you its not as hard as people make it out to be, as long as you are aware of your surroundings and can positively maneuver the helicopter with full control, then you can do it. I know a couple Ag pilots and talked to them on how pilots usually get into the business, he said that he himself (along with most companies) hire you as ground crew and in the off season, you might go practice with an ag pilot and get training hours in (whether or not you pay for it, idk but thats besides the point) The problem with having low hours is that insurance cost to insure you is insane (pilot with 600ish hours and minimal ag experience is about an extra $5,000 to insure...) and that is a cost that an owner doesnt seem beneficial enough to him to foot that bill and risk his equipment. Its not necessarily about how many hours you have total, its about how many you have in specific aircraft and in ag work (counting off season training hours). If you want to be a ag pilot in R44s (like myself) then CFI just doesnt offer those type of hours as CFI usually just racks you up hours in R22 which is not completely beneficial to you. but the upside of CFI is that if your school you teach at offers tours, then you will have a foot in for those R44 tours (or turbine, depending on what your company uses for tours) so bottom line is to get a low hour job like tours to rack up those R44 hours and then down the line, start searching for cherry drying, pollination, or even frost control gigs (those will help you rack up your "ag" hours) until you get about 1000 in desired aircraft with a large portion of it technically being "ag". This is probably the best route if you cannot buy your own helicopter like the guy I know did.... Hope this helps a little, Good Luck!

The part you're missing is that flying is about 20% of the knowledge and skill required to be an ag-pilot. Most of it is farming and product knowledge. When you work the ground, you're not actually paying dues (well, maybe a little), you're learning the most important part of the operation. Knowing the product effects and limitations can be the difference between making a career, or subjecting your and your employer to millions of dollars in litigation. It happens all the time.

 

As for you practicing "low passes and ag turns", I highly suggest doing them under the guidance of an actual ag pilot if you're not, there's more to it than you think. You don't have the added distraction of tracking the swath guidance, flow control, looking for wires, etc.. That's also something that kills several ag pilots each season. You're likely to cost the operator more money mishandling chemicals than crashing a helicopter. Several ag insurance underwriters look favorably on a few seasons of ground work because of it.

 

If you want the real scoop on ag flying you should join the National Agricultural Aviation Association (www.agaviation.org) , it's an investment well spent. There's a lot of good information for aspiring ag pilots, and the annual conventions are where most of the networking and employment opportunities exist.

 

In case you're wondering, I'm actually a helicopter guy by trade, still active duty Army (UH-1, UH-60, MD500, MH-47s, King Airs and UH-72s). I take all my leave in the summer and fly fixed wing ag in an Air Tractor AT-602.

 

Mike-

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