Our S-64 Air Crane had been checked and made ready for the first fire call of the day, if it was ever to come. Time now, to get into the books, flight manuals, study guides, or maybe less demanding pursuits. Standing by for fires is an activity where you get out of it what you put in. You can do as much or as little as you want with the 12 hours you spend living one minute away from your helicopter.
This morning I was reading a helicopter magazine and the author of this particular article was talking about low time pilot jobs. He correctly mentioned that agricultural flying was sometimes an option for low time pilots and then went on to incorrectly identify that type of flying as easy and basic. I laughed out loud, reading his assessment of ag. flying, as easy.
The other Captain on our three or four person flight crew heard me and asked what I had found so amusing?
This other Captain has a similar aviation background to my own. We both flew crop spraying helicopters in the early days of our careers. Although we both have flown a lot of different types of helicopters all over the world in a wide variety of missions we both agree that some of our ag. flying was and still is flying, that is anything but easy. Between the two of us we have well over 30,000 hours in helicopters and several thousand hours of ag. time.
“This guy, has obviously never flown any ag” the other Captain laughed, referring to the author and calling him something I will not write here.
I mentioned that this was not the first time I had read or heard somebody describing crop spraying as an easy low time pilot’s job.
Let me tell you that the only thing easy about crop spraying is that it is easy to get yourself killed at the start of your career. I talked to a young lady this year whose husband, a low time pilot, was contemplating taking a job spraying seed and sweet corn in Illinois for the summer.
I tempered my comments with the knowledge that she would be the person waiting each night for her husband’s return. I hope the young man finds a good mentor in the company he is off to fly for this summer.
I had a great mentor on my second crop spraying job, back when I had about five hundred hours. My boss was funny, crude as hell and a veteran of years of crop spraying .He told you something only once, demonstrated the flying , if he thought it merited the time and money and then cut you loose with the same unnecessary warning I have heard many times.
“Try not to kill yourself”
When the time came for my old boss to call it a career in the ag business he walked away from flying and never looked back or so he said and so we all believed. In actual fact he been dropping back into the ag business in the summer and doing some spraying for a company that had contracts on seed and sweet corn.
My old mentor missed seeing a wire in a field of corn in Illinois. He crashed and died.
It might not be the same company but it will certainly be the same level of risk for this young pilot. I didn’t need to tell the lady, that piece of information and if her husband took the job I hope he gets as good a teacher as the one I had. The same man, who for whatever reason could not heed his own advice about “walking away and not looking back.”