What am I doing here? That is a question I have asked myself more than once in my aviation career. Usually that question arises when complicated situations appear or involve difficulties. I recently asked myself that question while I was in the presence of a group of teenagers. On that occasion, the question addressed the uncertainty of how to speak to Millennials.
Actually, I already knew the answer? At the beginning of 2020, I had set as one of my personal growth goals to spread the word about my ag-pilot profession and attract new generations to aviation in general.
Last November, I had the honor and pleasure of being able to give a vocational guidance talk at a secondary school in my city in Uruguay. I was able to cross that item off the list of annual goals. Our profession and our life as a pilot require proactivity not only in the air, but also in our daily lives. That is why this article will surely have a lot of “Earth life”, based on three aspects of the life of an ag-pilot, health, personal development and giving back to others.
Our health determines our present and future lives as aviation professionals. According to leadership expert John Maxwell, “Many people use their health to generate wealth when they are young, then at the end of their lives use this wealth to try to buy health.”
As pilots, we depend on a single factor to continue our profession and that factor is called “being healthy”. Most of us who work as ag-pilots renew our employment contract once a year. The same is true when we pass our physical exam.
The Captain of Corporate Aviation and excellent writer, Ivan Luciani, makes us reflect in his magnificent book, An Aviator’s Journey: Tales of a Corporate Pilot about the reality of losing our pilot’s license, wondering what if …?
What happens if the engine stops? What happens if I have to land again with a full hopper? Many of us prepare and have a plan for what happens if; but what if I lose my license and can’t fly anymore? “The idea of not being able to fly anymore is simply too painful to understand. Even so, we owe it to ourselves and our families to consider the possibility and develop a contingency plan,” Luciani says.
We could always do something else besides flying. Instead, we should set personal growth goals based on short and medium term goals. One of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic was the airlines. Pilots, highly skilled with thousands of hours, lost their jobs overnight. They lost the safety net that supported their families.
I have three questions for you: What? When? and How? What else would you like to do in your profession or outside of it? When would you like to do it? And finally, how to achieve it? These questions are a good exercise to work towards a contingency plan.
What is your plan for professional and personal growth? Growth prevents personal and professional stagnation. Your growth impacts your life and your work directly. Only through continuous improvement can we reach our full potential.
There are three steps needed to achieve our goals: 1) Define what I want to achieve, 2) Draw up a plan as specific as possible, 3) Focus on the result and not on the conditions and circumstances.
Give back to others
Nobody likes to be around people who only think about themselves. Generous people have no vanity. They lack jealousy. They have no reservations against their colleagues and for those who ask for help. As pilots we can mentor those who desire to fly ag. We can tell them about the difficulties and also the rewards of our profession.
When we are busy giving to others and helping them succeed, there is no room for selfishness. Make yourself known to your friends and colleagues as a trustworthy person. Let your friends come to you if they need an honest opinion. Be grateful to your family, friends, and your community. Help others who are struggling with difficulties that you have already overcome. Connect with people who will share their story. Offer to help them in any way. It is incredibly satisfying.
Facts, not words
When you are in the cockpit, you are 100% in charge and enjoy the responsibility. We should also enjoy the journey of professional personal development. Look for growth environments. Take your time planning and growing. If you spend an hour a day for five years doing something, surely you will be an expert at it. There is no substitute for hard work and discipline. There are rewards when you achieve your goals.
Due to different circumstances, by action or omission, there are three classes of ag-pilots; those who “pay” to fly, those who are paid to fly and those who pay not to fly. What category are you in and where would you like to be? Act like the person you want to become. Real success comes from with yourself.
Martin da Costa Porto is an Uruguayan ag-pilot and ag-pilot instructor. He has over 20 years experience flying ag and over 3,000 hours of flight instruction. He currently flies an AT-402B turboprop Air Tractor in Uruguay.