When I was in high school and college, on weekends and sometimes during the week, we would have a friendly (usually) poker game. Often times we would play “Boo Ray.” Boo Ray is a five-card gambling game that I am sure must have originated in south Louisiana amongst the Cajuns. It is a blood thirsty and cutthroat game, but if you are the winner, you stand to win big bucks in a short time. Of course, you could also lose your “posterior” in an equal amount of time. I won’t go into details how the game is played, but I do want to say that the basic rules of the game are very simple to learn and that’s how a lot of suckers got sucked into the game and most certainly did lose their posterior! Boo Ray may be a simple game of which the basics are easy to learn, but it takes a lot of experience and money to become a master at the game. And that, my friend, is exactly the way it is in ag flying.
I recently had a retired airline pilot go through my turbine transition course. When he was about half way through the course, he made a comment that went something like this, “I never realized there was so much to learn and so much to be acutely aware of all of the time!” This student hit the nail on the head. The basics of ag flying may be relatively simple, but after more than 40 years of flying ag, I am still learning. I honestly think I am getting better with each new season. I will stop learning when they are throwing dirt in my face!
I once flew over the beautiful rolling hills of North Dakota. Incidentally, these are some of the nicest people with whom I have ever been associated. The fields generally are not so difficult to fly regarding obstacles like trees and wires, however, following the up-and-down terrain at 150 mph is a new ball game for this old crop duster. I certainly learned a different phase of ag-flying.
I had a student that I trained for a basic ag-course. He shortly thereafter landed a “seat” not too far away in Rayville, Louisiana. I heard from another student that the new ag-pilot had returned to Rayville to visit with other students and expound on his newly acquired vast knowledge of ag-flying that he had learned after his training. He made the comment that I was not teaching the best way to turn around an ag-plane, but that his way was far faster and a better way to do it. In essence, he would stay close to the ground, establish about a 70-80 degree bank then haul back hard on the stick, pulling several Gs. If he continues to fly like this, it won’t be long before we will read about him in the NTSB accident report… the classic accelerated stall.
To begin with, as I remember this young man, he had an attitude about him from the start. Honestly and candidly speaking, I really am not so much concerned with his safety as I am with other ag-flying novices that he will influence. God forbid that any one of us has a serious accident in order to be a safer and wiser ag pilot. I would hope and pray that he (any of us) could learn from someone else’s pilot error accident and not learn from firsthand experience…like I did. I was exactly like this young man during my first year of flying ag and also, just like him, no one could tell me a darn thing. It took the good Lord to teach me and he is still teaching. Just like playing Boo Ray…I am still learning.
And so as per always, be safe, have fun, make money and keep on learning!