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Old 07-13-2015, 08:33 PM
Disinterested Third Party
Joined APC: Jun 2012
Posts: 3,767

Ag isn't a dying industry. It's changed in terms of available positions; where cubs and pawnees and smaller aircraft were common once, today it's largely 800 gallon air tractors that do the work of multiple smaller airplanes; larger, faster turbine aircraft doing the work of numerous smaller airplanes means more work gets done, with fewer pilots.

Those with the experience to get a good seat tend to keep the seat each year, or will have the ability to find good work each year if they wish, and many make far better than upper airline wages, while working a few months each year. Five hundred dollars an hour isn't chump change.

There is the potential for legal action, but it generally exists as drift claims against susceptible crops (hence the requirements for more experienced pilots doing herbicide work), and generally aren't leveled at the pilots, but at the business. Most of the time, where losses occur during the year, it's farmers who renig on payment, though failing to pay for chemical or spray work can put a crimp in profits for the season.

Ag flying is very precise work; very intolerant of variations in altitude or track spacing while flying swaths in the field; skips that occur in chemical coverage show up in the crop, and farmers take a dim view of that. Skips result in loss of business and loss of payment.

Most ag pilots don't own aircraft and don't purchase aircraft to spray. Arrive to spray, leave when it's over. Some more fortunate ones have year-round work or permanent seats. Seldom do those own the aircraft.

Owner-operators don't necessarily make the most, especially given the investments, inventory, billing delays or losses, etc. Ag pilots generally get 20-25% of the income; the rest goes to the business to cover overhead; the owner-operator gets whats left after equipment replacement, improvements, etc, are done.

I don't know any ag aviators personally who've been involved in legal battles in the last season, or last ten years, for that matter. Operators do have their moments, just like any business, but the notion that this is a regular thing for an aerial applicator is ridiculous. Every season? Absolutely not.

Getting filmed while spraying a field isn't exactly a hardship or a problem. It's not like we're breaking the law.

Ground rigs have a big part of application on crops; so does chemigation. Aerial application has decided advantages, however, which include the speed of application, thoroughness of coverage, and the ability to apply chemical to a field without compressing soil or damaging the crop with wheels. Aerial application is more thorough than chemigation (chemical application during irrigation). When a bug run occurs (insect infestation) or a pre-harvest application of a herbicide, or application of a defoliant, speed of application is important; in that case, aerial application is the best choice. Additionally, an aircraft flying down the field provides a more uniform atomization of the applied liquid chemical with a greater ability to penetrate crop canopies and reach the underside of leaves.
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