Friday, April 3, 2020
Ag Pilot Jobs






So you want to be an Ag Pilot
I get many enquiries on this web site from people wanting to be an Ag Pilot. Here are my standard answers to your questions.
How much does it cost?
An Ag Rating in Australia is an endorsement to a commercial pilot’s licence. You need about 200hrs of training and experience to get a commercial licence. Calculate this at about $200/hr. You then need to do an Agricultural Rating which is another 40hrs. Calculate this at about $300 - $500 per hour. You also need to study and pass a pesticide application licence for the state you want to work in.
Yep...$50,000 to $70,000 should do it.
Ag flying sounds like a great job?
There is not much glamour in Ag Flying. Most operations are in remote farming regions, The hours can be long and irregular and are not compatible with a social life. The aircraft are basic, noisy, uncomfortable machines that only a real Ag Pilot can love. If you break it you usually have to fix it. Other pilots look down their noses at you and the girls either think you are crazy or an environmental vandal.
On the plus side, it is a profession that needs a diverse range of difficult to master skills. When you can successfully combine them to produce a satisfied customer it gives you a real sense of achievement and satisfaction.  For those who want to be good at other things than just flying this is a great career. 
Agriculture is very much a boom or bust industry. Everything depends on the weather and how much it rains. It seems that there is either no work, or too much. It is not a good place for those who need regular income and a rut to follow. But for those who like to be flexible, can handle a variable work load and can manage fluctuating income levels, then this might be for you.
My wife says no because it is a dangerous job
All types of flying are only as dangerous as you want to make them. Risk management is the key to having a long and successful career as an Ag Pilot. Low flying has its own special set of risks and being able to recognise them and manage them are a good pilots tools of the trade. Handling the aircraft is only a small part of this, you need to have good situational awareness skills to be able to manage the myriad of other issues of the job while still safely flying the aircraft. This is only gained by experience so the key when you are starting out is to know your limitations and to stick to them.
Thrill seekers and show offs should look into some sort of extreme sport for their jollies. Ag flying is only for the serious professional pilot.
How easy is it to get a job?
Once you have your Commercial licence, Ag Rating and Pesticide licence, your first 100hrs needs to be done under supervision, so you need to find an operator who is willing to do this. Most operators will expect you to work for them for a time as a ground crew, loading and servicing the aircraft. This gives you experience at how the business operates and also gives the operator an idea if he is willing to let you in one of his valuable aeroplanes.  Insurance companies specify minimum hours for the larger turbine powered aircraft so you need to do at least 1000hrs with an operator with a smaller piston powered aircraft. So as you can see it is a fairly long term commitment before you become a useful asset for the operator.

Ag Flying is about 80% Ag and only 20% flying. There are plenty of skilled pilots out there.  The Ag side needs you to know about the farming business. You need to know chemicals, how they work, the hazards of using them and how to apply them efficiently and safely. Air Ag looks for aerial pesticide applicators not Ag Pilots.

  I want to get an Ag rating to build hours so I can get into the Airlines

Buy a twin and fly around Australia, it’ll be cheaper and won’t waste yours and our time.
How much money do you make?
If this is your primary concern then Ag flying is not for you. For highly experienced Ag Pilots who are good at what they do, then the rewards are good. But this is the same for most areas of aviation. You can only be good at what you do if you genuinely like what you do and are committed to it for the long term. Don’t do this just for the money if you really want to be an Ag Pilot you’ll do it anyway.
I want to start as a ground crew for some experience.
Air Ag are always on the lookout for ground crews. These jobs may be casual or permanent.  They involve preparing and batching the agricultural products, then loading them into the aircraft. This is a duty that has some hazards so needs to be done carefully. Air Ag have developed procedures and a training program to ensure that safety and quality are not compromised
Other duties involve maintenance of the loading gear and assisting the pilot in minor aircraft maintenance such as cleaning and servicing the application equipment. Our operation is a small one so there are no demarcation zones around here. We expect our employees to be multi skilled and count this as a preference when selecting applicants.
You will need a drivers licence and will be driving small trucks on country roads so we like to see a good driving record.
Anyone who handles pesticides needs to be Chemcert Accredited which is a pretty simple 2 day course done at a nearby TAFE college.

I hope this answers some of your questions and am happy to answer any other enquiries at should you have them.

If you are looking for jobs try the website. A lot of operators post job wanted adds here.


Peter Travers

Chief Pilot

Air Ag
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