Flying as an AG Pilot or Agricultural Pilot could be perceived as the starting out job for a pilot, or one for retired pilots. It conjures up images of flying an old beaten up aircraft over crops in Colorado but nowadays, this image has changed with technology and experience. The AG Pilot flies light aircraft and assists with the dusting and spraying of crops and they are in demand worldwide.
What is the Role of an AG Pilot?
The main duties of an AG Pilot are:
- Taking off and landing on country roads and fields
- Flying low and avoiding obstacles such as power lines
- Working with fertilizers and pesticides
- Aerial application of dangerous liquids
- Work as a water bomber in areas of wildfires
An AG Pilot will be required to:
- Perform technically challenging work
- Perform potentially hazardous work
- Understand the safe use of pesticides and entomology
- Understand environmental risks
- Have knowledge of insects, crops, laws, chemicals and the region
Basic Requirements and Qualifications
To work as an AG Pilot, you need to be a minimum of 18 years old with an outstanding high school education in the areas of Maths and the Sciences. You will need to be able to pass an airman’s medical and hold a PPL (Private Pilot’s License) and have 250 hours flying experience. Once you have completed your PPL you need to work on a CPL (Commercial Pilot’s license) and finally an APL (Agriculture Pilot’s License). Engineering experience is a big advantage and you will in most cases need a ‘tail wheel endorsement’ on your license.
Training for Pilots
There are 3 main ways to undertake pilot training. You can gain a university degree in aviation or aeronautics combined with your ATPL and then gain a CPL with experience. An integrated course provides a quicker intensive way of gaining your licenses and taking you to ATPL. Many people take the modular route where you can learn by distance learning at a time convenient to you whilst still working to cover costs and take you through PPL, ATPL and CPL before finally taking your APL.
How to Apply
The best way into agricultural flying is take a 1 year apprenticeship with a crop spraying company once you have gained the correct licenses. This will slowly take you into being an AG pilot but starting with things such as learning how to mix chemicals and load them on the aircraft.
Hours, Salary and Benefits
Hours are long and irregular and the work is seasonal.
Salary is variable depending on your experience and the operator and country working in.
New AG Pilot
Experienced AG Pilot
Some added benefits may include health, loss of license and life insurance as well as pension although many AG pilots work independently.
You will be required to be tested on your safety procedures and aircraft knowledge every 6 months and complete one check flight every year. Medicals are needed once or twice yearly.
In low season, you may be able to take on other work such as land surveying, banner towing or instructing. Mostly there is lots of work available and turnover is low so there is plenty of opportunity in AG flying. If you are interested in the environment, farming and flying, this could be a very unique role for you.
Image Source: www.theaustralian.com.au