"So you've got your first 'seat'...." Some advice for new and aspiring pilots.

We recently had a conversation with Herve Marchadier and he talked to us about the Ag-Aviation field. Herve had some advice to pass on to new pilots and we wanted to give it to you in his own words

photo credits: Jeremy folden

photo credits: Jeremy folden

"I don't know if we have any rookies or guys looking to break out soon in this group, but this is something I compiled this last corn run.  If this helps anyone, I'm happy.  I'm not a super-experienced ag pilot, but over my career I've put together some advice I would pass along to a new pilot getting his first seat.  Some of these are words of wisdom passed to me, while others are my own observations. 

I wrote this because as someone who has only been in the aerial application industry for four years, I'm familiar with the struggles some people have in finding that first seat. I wanted to let new and aspiring pilots know that there is more to this field than simply flying an airplane. I was also thinking that older pilots and operators would see it and  add their own pieces of advice. I focused primarily on the flying/application side of it, but I also wanted to touch on the impact we have in our communities.

We're getting new blood in this industry, and the operators for whom they fly have a ton of information to give to them. At the same time, the younger pilots and crew bring their own insights as well. It's important (literally life-and-death important) for a young pilot to listen and pay attention to the lessons and advice of the older generation, but also for the older generation to listen to, and encourage input from, the newer pilots, as that will aid in their development as the future of our industry.

There are things in here that some will disagree with, and there are some that do not apply to others.  I think that overall it isn't bad as far as free advice goes.

First of all, congratulations on getting a seat!  You're about to start one of the most exciting and dynamic careers in the aviation industry.  There are some things that you want to keep in mind, however, due to the nature of the work.  The job includes risk, but these risks can be mitigated if addressed properly.  Sometimes it's hard for a young guy to really understand things from an older person's perspective, and vice versa. 

The advice listed is not all inclusive, but I think it's a good start.

  1. Do not expect to set any production records your first year. Your job during your first season is to learn the basics and survive to fly a second season.  Your operator is probably not expecting to make much money from you and he is hoping you will be able to apply those early lessons learned in the future. 
  2. You will make mistakes. The operator that I fly for has been an aerial applicator for forty years and he still makes mistakes, so why would you be any different?  This leads to the next point.
  3. When you make a mistake, own it. No one is perfect. Learn from it, get back to it, and, if possible, try to make it right. Never, under any circumstance, lie. 
  4. Speed and efficiency come with time. If your turns seem like they take a long time at first, that's fine.  I've never seen a field run away while turning. 
  5. I do not care if you did spray that field or one right next to it recently.  Circle it anyway before you dive in. 
  6. You may hear some of the older hands talk about how fast they turn/slow they fly/etc. Some of it may even be true. You are not there yet. Fly safely. On a related note, old hands, be careful about what you say in your bull sessions around the rookies.  They may feel like they have your skill and experience. Also, you can tell them until you are blue in the face how you want them to fly, but you lead by example. This can be good or bad, so choose wisely.
  7. A pole near an abandoned farm place is something you want to be cautious around. Make darned sure there is not a wire before you go diving near it. 
  8. If you think you can go under a wire, you can not. Be certain you can, and be cognizant of what's on the other side of the wire. 
  9. If you have to make two trim passes, then make two trim passes. 
  10. Keep your pride on a leash. Just because you have a hopper that can hold "x" number of gallons that does not mean you have an airplane that will fly with that much load, especially when the temperature and humidity are high.
  11. Be mindful of your limitations and those of your airplane.  The laws of physics are not negotiable. 
  12. Pushing your limits should be done by nudges rather than shoves. 
  13. You will never kill every big/weed/etc. out there.  Trying to do so will likely lead you into some situations you would rather avoid.
  14. No one's crops are worth killing yourself over.
  15. I cannot speak for everyone, but I would respect a man a lot more for saying they were uncomfortable with a situation than if they were to try to be a hero and push through it. Sometimes a bit of advice from an older pilot or operator is all you need.
  16. Drink water.  Lots of it. 
  17. I keep a bottle of water in the airplane with me separate from my drinking water. Getting some of this stuff in your eye burns like hell, and you do not have someone else in the airplane to fly for you. 
  18. Fatigue can scare/hurt/kill you.  The same goes for complacency and arrogance. 
  19. Your boss is more nervous than you are when you take your first load out. 
  20. You are not too good to sweep a floor. 
  21. Especially if you work somewhere other than your hometown, be a good guest wherever you are.  Open doors for ladies, say "sir" and "ma'am" often, and remember "please" and "thank you." 
  22. Do not stop flying the airplane until all the pieces come to a halt.  You can get scared afterward. 
  23. If I knew I was not going to crash, I would not wear a helmet.  Since I do not have the ability to predict the future, I wear one. 
  24. Your boss is taking a huge chance on breaking you out.  Respect that, respect them, and be loyal.  Even if you only work for them a little while, this is a small community.  Reputations stick. 
  25. Good things come to good people.  If you do quality work, maintain your integrity, and keep striving for better, you will go far.  You probably will not make a lot of money your first few years, but it will pay off in the end."

Do you have advice to give new and aspiring pilots?  Send it to us!

Herve Marchadier was born in Louisville, Kentucky and was raised south of Birmingham, AL. He flies for Quality Spraying Service in Iowa.