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Oh those poor cherries:(

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Well here's the third ad I've seen for a cherry drying pilot,...guess the shortage is beginning to trickle down? Never seen this company before, but I must admit hovering around in an Astar could be cool.


RAVCO is now accepting applications for the 2019 Cherry Drying Season.


The job starts late May and runs until the middle of August. The job will be in the Bell 206BIII JetRanger or AS-350B2 helicopter in the central WA area.


This is a great opportunity for a young pilot looking to start his/her career in commercial aviation.

Thousand hours seems a bit steep though :(

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The majority of helicopters drying cherries in central WA are R44s. The unfortunate part is that it can be quite dangerous at times and has proven not to be the best time building job for newer pilots. Sadly, there seems to be a fatality almost every season.

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Heh. RAVCO is looking for 1,000 verifiable PIC time (not just TT) and yet they say it's a good job for a young pilot looking to start his career in commercial aviation. Heh. I submit that if a guy has 1,000 hours of PIC time, he's been flying commercially and has his career already started. I wish them better luck finding pilots than I had. Guys with 1,000 hours already have jobs in the heat of the summer when everybody's busy. I will say this: RAVCO is getting kind of a late start looking for pilots.


I wonder what RAVCO is paying and what their arrangements are for lodging and food for the pilot? Cherries in Wenatchee is horribly competitive. There's already a ton of R-44's undercutting each other on price. Growers only want 20 or 30 day contracts, which are unprofitable, especially if it doesn't rain. And guess what? Growers plant cherries where it doesn't rain a lot. And if it doesn't rain a lot, your standby rate has to be high enough to cover the cost of the helicopter and food and lodging for the pilot and the ground guy. And sometimes it doesn't.


(You need a ground guy to drive the pickup truck and fuel trailer/bowser/camper - and helicopter if you trailer it - into the area. The ground guy might leave the truck and boogie out of there back home, which leaves the pilot to take the fuel tank to the Wenatchee airport when it needs filling.)


Logistically, it's hard for an out-of-area operator to come into a market like Wenatchee and make money. For one thing, the place is already full of Robbies and Schweizers buzzing around like gnats after it rains. Plus, there are agents that have been working with the growers for years who the growers depend on to procure helicopter services. If you're not "in" with one of those agents, good luck finding growers to use you. It'll take more than just showing up at some farmer's house and handing him your business card and saying, "Hey, I'm from Leadville, Colorado and I want to dry your cherries!" The farmer will legitimately ask, "Gee, will your shiny, expensive 206 (or Astar) do a better job of drying my cherries than an R-44 which has the same rotor diameter and nearly the same weight...or the Restricted Category Huey we had from NW Helicopters last year?" (Most growers have been doing this for a while.)


Last year, an operator sent a Sikorsky S-62 (might've been a civilianized HH-52) to Wenatchee to dry. They ferried it up from Los Angeles! That poor God-fearing pilot did over 800 miles at 80 knots - one way! Twenty hours total ferry time?? Do YOU think they made money? Or did they "eat" the cost of the ferry time just to get the S-62 exposed to the market? Hmm...


Growers typically want the ship based in the orchard with the fuel and the pilot living nearby. If the pilot is not based in a camper *at* the helicopter, the grower will allow him to be at a nearby motel. But - no surprise here - motels cost money (which eats into the standby pay). And if there's even a hint of rain, the pilot BETTER be at the ship. Oh, that's fun if there's no camper or place for the pilot to hang out other than the ship.


Sometimes it rains overnight and the grower wants the pilot airborne at first-light. Not preflighting or having breakfast...airborne. In the summer, first-light comes around 0430. And last-light is around 2130. Makes for a loooooong day sometimes. There are no duty- or flight-time limitations under Part 91. Hey, but remember, you're a young pilot trying to start his career in commercial aviation!


Most growers will provide an LZ of the barest minimum size. Or less. And you better have your fuel there. If you're drying and you have to stop halfway through to leave and go get fuel they will put up with it once or twice. More than that and you will not be asked back next season.


Growers go absolutely crazy when their cherries are wet.


The company I work for has spare aircraft that we *could* send to Wenatchee if we wanted to enter that market (or expand out of our home market). We choose not to. The numbers don't work for us. It's not worth it. We don't do anything less than 45-day contracts with any single grower. And we don't "double-up" or do a co-op or consortium or any of that mess. One ship: One grower. Here's why - if it rains overnight, EVERY farmer wants to be first to be dried, and they start blowing up the pilot's phone in the middle of the night (when he should be sleeping) to get on the list first. Remember, growers go crazy when their cherries are wet. Bullcrap on that!


If RAVCO thinks they can send a 206 and/or an Astar over into a market like Wenatchee and make some inroads and make some money...well, more power to them. But I want some of what they're smoking. They will quickly find out how much it costs versus how little they'll make. Oh, and if *anything* breaks (e.g. starter, t/r/ or trans chip light) and you're down for more than a couple of hours, the grower will have a sh*t-fit. And trust me, if you charge much more than an R-44 in that market, all of the growers down there have this Maria chick's number on speed-dial. (She's the R-44 big dog / Grand Poobah in the Wenatchee cherry drying industry, I guess.)


So I wish them luck. They're gonna need it.

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