One would assume the job of an agricultural pilot comes with absolute solitude. If you think about it, the plane comes equipped with a single seat (usually). The truth is that flying such aircraft is largely a group effort consisting of contributions from mechanics, entomologists and ground crew – in addition to the pilot.
Most pilots are mindful enough to anticipate surprises that may arise during the course of the application. They need to be attentive and assertive while in the air. But, they simply can’t do it alone and must understand that a successful day of aerial application involves teamwork.
Each member of this successful team gives 100%, all the time. These team members, whom I’ll refer to as crewmembers, are the backbone of the aircraft operation. However, there are good crewmembers and bad ones. Personally, I’ve worked with both kinds, so I can tell who’s going to be an asset and who won’t last in the field. Good crewmembers have things coordinated with everything planned, anticipating the next load, next weather system, etc.; they come prepared. Bad crewmembers are those unfamiliar with their work surroundings, are always complaining and suffer from poor self-esteem.
Another integral part of a successful team is the aircraft mechanics. They are as important as wings on an aircraft. Great mechanics master the art of listening. He knows the pilot controls the narrative of the flight. Trust must be established between the pilot and mechanic before the plane takes off. Not-so-great mechanics tend to take things personally whenever a pilot makes a request or offers a suggestion.
When interpersonal relationships get involved in the team dynamic, the ebb and flow of work suffers. A strong team leaves out personal issues involving family or their social life. When personal beliefs, prejudices, cultural and social differences get involved, the dynamic of the team becomes troublesome.
When taking my CFI courses, I was astonished by some of the material. The subjects had little to do with regulations, mechanics or weather. Even though I had a personal interest in those topics, it shocked me to see how much was focused on the human aspect, specifically towards effective and assertive communication skills.
However, it was a good thing these issues were covered as they relate to our daily duties training pilots. The truth is that we all regularly judge one another, even if we are not aware we are doing it. We should be learning to manage that judgment in a more professional manner. Being alert to such things is like filtering out what is relevant in order to have a machine operating smoothly. But, the fact of the matter is that we take our personal issues to work, instead of being the person our workplace uniforms represent.
We must be cautious so we don’t misunderstand things. Bringing personal problems to work does not solve any problems. Doing so only contributes to them.
As far as agricultural aviation is concerned, any display of inattentiveness can cost you severely. We have to be at our mental best when we are flying. We need to have a frame of mind that can adapt to any circumstances and an attitude that incorporates peace, tolerance for peers, empathy and devotion. Our personal well-being is what motivates us to be professional.
Relationship problems, family issues, financial troubles …these things are always going to be problematic for everyone, everywhere, all the time. Juggling your professional and personal life positively requires effort, but is feasible if one is committed.
Ultimately, being a good person on the inside is the best approach to doing a great job at work, no matter what your work field.
Juliana Torchetti, 37, began her aviation career as a flight instructor. She flew as a passenger Boeing 737 co-pilot and 727 freighter. Her passion for agricultural aviation called and she decided to change her aviation career. Now, as a third year agricultural pilot flying an Ipanema in Brazil, she feels that she has accomplished her dream as an ag-pilot. Her view of ag-aviation is with discipline and good humor to handle the daily challenges of the profession.