This is a topic that I have touched on in a previous IMO, but I am inspired to expand and expound on the subject; and the subject is “Wannabees” ag pilots. Recently while flying in Illinois for Mr. Chuck Holzwarth, he and I briefly discussed some of what it takes to be a good ag pilot. There are, of course, the obvious; skill in handling the plane, quick and accurate decision making, reasonable intelligence and a healthy respect for, but not fear of this kind of flying and certainly other traits. Wannabees have a suppressed fear of flying fast, close to the ground and really bending the plane around in a turnaround. Oftentimes, they will not even admit this to themselves, or they think in time it will go away. These people want to be an ag pilot, but they simply “ain’t got the right stuff.”
Aside from the aforementioned traits an ag pilot must have, there is another that should be considered. The really top notch ag pilot should dearly love the work. I mean passionately. I know of one pilot who made no bones about it; he was in it for the money. He liked the idea of working eight months out of the year and fishing and hunting the other four. His wife owned a very successful business and he was content with the status quo. He liked flying, but he was not consumed with it. Maybe that’s the better way to be, but not for me. After all these years, I am still head-over-heals in love with my work. When the day comes that I have to hang up the old hard-hat, I will probably “head west” shortly thereafter.
Wannabees wannabee an ag pilot, but that won’t get there. Wannabees are dangerous to themselves, as well as others. If they are consumed with thoughts of having an accident, as they often are, stand by one is on the way.
Before I go any further, let me say this and have said in past IMOs; there is no shame in quitting the ag aviation business. In fact, it takes a bigger and smarter man to own up to it. I would like to be a neurosurgeon, so that I could own a 911 Porsche, P-51 Mustang, a Harley Davidson and a 40’ sailboat. But I do not have what it takes to be a neurosurgeon! And, I am not ashamed that I cannot be a neurosurgeon. If I attempted surgery on someone’s brain, I would surely be a danger to them. Same thing, a wannabee is a danger to others and himself.
So, how do we recognize closet wannabees? I’m not a psychologist, but I have been around several wannabees and I can spot one after being around them for a little while. Here are a few clues that I have deduced:
1. Overly cautious about weather and condition of the airplane. Looks for an excuse not to fly.
2. Jumps out of the airplane for a break every time they come in for another load and slow to get back in the plane.
3. Brags about close calls and near accidents. Thinks this will bolster opinions from other ag pilots.
4. Late for work, early to leave. Slow to get in the air for first flight of the day.
5. Takes in excess of 60 seconds to turnaround, even when light.
6. Flies too high over the crop.
7. Will not go under a wire which is under-flyable with two Dromaders stacked on top of each other.
8. Possibly over indulges with alcohol rather often.
Here again, I am no psychologist, but I think if someone exhibits three or four of these traits, they deserved to be watched closely. Maybe it would be good to have a private conversation with them.