Changes

We humans are creatures of habit. We like things to follow a specific pattern and current. Repetitious days where everything fits, as long it doesn’t become monotonous. We like things to change up just a little, but not much. Only enough to keep us interested without causing inconvenience.

Ag pilots are probably the most notorious for needing to have a need for sameness. Even flying a different airplane, though it may be the same make and model, throws a wrinkle into the day. After all, they are all different even when they are the same. Every airplane has its own personality and traits. We all know it and appreciate it. Mostly.

Our job requires intuitiveness. A pilot needs to be far enough ahead of his machine and the job he’s doing so as not to get into anything more interesting than what he wants to deal with. Schedules aren’t something that fit very well in this business but that in itself is a schedule of sorts. When the season is on, the schedule is; there is no other schedule. Put everything else on hold except getting in the seat. Trying to do anything else will just make you crazy.

We also have our routines and procedures. Day in, day out. We get accustomed to the same regimen and become comfortable with how it all works. If one little thing changes, it sticks like a thorn and threatens to throw everything else into chaos. I have to admit getting flustered at something as insignificant as when I have to use a different ink pen. Seriously, my ink pen is very important. Very.

In today’s ag aviation industry, it’s pretty clear that technology has gained more horsepower. Imagine a 402 with a -65 on it. All the new nano gadgets and high speed programs are coming at us exceeding the redline and pushing so far passed the VNE we can almost count the rivets popping. It’s sometimes all we can do just to keep the ball close to center.

Change is coming my friends. Like it or not, we’ll have to adapt and learn to get along with it. New ways of doing things like work order generation and completion, accounting, all sorts of ways computer programs are moving into our cockpits. Some say it’s great. Those are usually the people who don’t spend much time in the cockpit.

Gone are the days when upgrading your electronics meant putting new batteries in your flashlight and calibrating your swath width was checking to make sure your flaggers were sober.

We’re emailing and texting and now I hear emails are just about obsolete. Give a guy a chance! We’re just about as connected as we can be without actually being tied together. Cell phones and the corresponding technology is taking over. We have our phones connected straight into our helmets and have our own music playlist available. We can spray a field, push a button, and swoosh! The file is off through outer space to ricochet off a satellite and zoom back to a computer on a desk only to be fired off again to bounce off another satellite and deliver a bill. All while the guy on the money handle is still flying six to ten feet above the crop glaring through splattered bugs on his windshield.

It seems we have an army of folks doing everything they can to make our jobs easier. I think they often miss the point and in so doing, only complicate things more. The last thing I need is a new learning curve. I’m still trying to navigate the one I’m already on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for new ideas and making a better mouse trap. As long as you’re not expecting the mouse to be anything but a mouse, that is. I can’t imagine life without a radio and a GPS. I have known older pilots who flat refused to use them. They are all gone now, as far as I know.

We’re a multi-generational industry. There are pilots out there who were flying crop dusters when our new pilots were still in diapers. I’ll count those old timers as the experts and legends, but the new guys have the edge when it comes to being adaptable to changes. Maybe their bones are still flexible enough to conform to the shape of things to come.

I know every time there is a change, it causes ripples in our time space continuum. Very few of us are ever looking forward to anything that interrupts our usual routine. There are, however, many new advances which improve our industry. Administrative programs are a complete necessity to any operation. Being able to plug in a thumb drive and bring up a file that confirms the job and field you’re on is as handy as a pocket on a shirt. We tend to get dependent on some of these things though. When I hear of a guy parking his airplane because the flow control quit working, I wonder what he would do if he encountered a real malfunction. Basic techniques and tools still need to be taught and practiced.

New things need to complement, not complicate. All these new things are great, if they fit your work and operation. It’s when we find ourselves trying to reinvent what we do in order to adapt to a program that causes the trouble. Anything added needs to be adaptable to how we do business, not the other way around. Change is good. As long as it’s a good change.

Stay safe. Fly well! Keep your airspeed up!



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