The month of March honors women in aviation worldwide and this includes those flying in agricultural aviation. Why is that different, being a female ag-pilot? Any ag-pilot knows the job is a physical one that requires serious mental concentration almost every minute in the cockpit. For a woman to fly an ag-plane, it takes all of those traits along with others that men know nothing about! Not that other aviation jobs held by women do not test the physical and mental abilities of any pilot, agricultural aviation holds a very special and unique place in that respect.
AgAir Update has published articles on several women ag-pilots. Regardless of the job’s demands, women fit very well in the cockpit of an ag-plane. This edition of AgAir Update presents a summary of these special women and their careers.
Juliana Torchetti Coppick
Possibly the most well-known of active female ag-pilots is Juliana. AgAir Update readers know her through her column, “Volo per Veritas” (Fly for the Truth), where she writes about her experiences flying ag, not only as a female pilot but how the industry affects all ag-pilots.
She was a pilot for the Brazilian GOL airlines and an aviation cargo company. With an intense desire to fly an ag-plane, she attended and graduated from CAVAG (Brazilian ag-pilot school) in 2013. Afterward, she found a seat flying an Ipanema. But, Juliana did not stop expanding her career as an ag-pilot.
Juliana met an American ag-pilot, Joe Coppick, who had read her column in AgAir Update. It was only a matter of time before the two were married. What followed was Juliana coming to America to fly ag. In a short time, she found seats in different parts of the U.S. that over time allowed her to fly the turbine Thrush 510G, 510P, 510GR, 660P, Air Tractor AT-402B and AT-502B. She also has logged time in the Pawnee, Ipanema and Ag-Truck.
Juliana’s multi-faceted experiences in aviation make her a good example of what women can achieve flying ag. She’s flown ag for eight years of which six were in Brazil and two in the U.S. In addition to professional fulfillment, another fact that makes her very happy is personal fulfillment as a mother and as a wife. The marriage to an experienced ag pilot could not be more perfect, after all, they can talk about agricultural aviation, either at the airport or during dinner.
Is it possible for someone to go from zero time to ag-time to ag-operator in less than a year? Ask Kathryn “KayDee” Mitchell! It took her less than a year to not only become an ag-pilot, but also an ag-operator with two turbine-powered ag-planes at the age of 21.
Like so many young people in college, KayDee was unsure about what she really wanted to do in life. Having grown up on a large cotton farm, KayDee was studying agri-business and knew she wanted a career in ag.
During a casual conversation with her Uncle Gary, a 20,000+ acres farmer of soybeans and cotton, he mentioned to KayDee that he needed an airplane that could handle all of his acres. With her interest peaked, KayDee volunteered. The irony, however, is that KayDee had never been in an airplane.
After extensive training at a Georgia ag-pilot school, Thrush Aircraft’s training facility and close mentoring, KayDee completed her first season in 2019 flying the 510P Thrush. Wisely, she had partnered with Dow Croom, who flew the new 510G and mentored KayDee every step of the way.
Joelize Franciele Friedrichs
Joelize, known as “Jo”, started her flying career in 2007 at the Carazinho Aero Club in Rio Grande do Sul Brazil. Here, she earned her Private Pilot’s license. Like so many pilots starting out, Jo worked at a Mato Grosso airport cleaning aircraft, pumping fuel and any other duties that would help her pay for the hours needed to earn her Commercial Pilot’s license.
Jo was hired to fly co-pilot for a cargo company. She flew cargo for a little over a year before returning to her first flight school in Carazinho to be a multi-engine instructor. This is where she first discovered agricultural aviation and fell in love with the idea of flying a powerful ag-plane, low over fields with the feeling of freedom that only an ag-plane can offer. After completing CAVAG at Carazinho, she found a seat flying an Ipanema in the state of Goias. After this, she flew Cessna C188s in the south of Brazil and now is working in Carazinho, including giving instruction at the CAVAG for new ag-pilots.
“I came from a farming family. At first, when I was flying over the huge fields of Goias, I was afraid; not of the airplane, but of the huge responsibility of doing a good job. I worked on it and now have great satisfaction when pests have been eliminated, the crop is protected and the farmer is pleased.” Jo is flying her eighth season and is a partner-owner of Agrofly in Carazinho, Rio Grande do Sul.
When it comes to aviation, it always helps if a parent is your aviation mentor. Canadian ag-pilot Laura Lawrence’s father flew in the Royal Canadian Air Force as a flight instructor in the PC-9. He was a pilot for the Canadian Snowbirds Air Demonstration Squadron. He later became a captain for West Jet. While Laura was growing up, she often flew “right seat” with him.
Laura got her chance at an aviation career by working at a local ag operator’s airport on the ground crew while earning her Commercial Pilot’s license and later flying a C-172 for aerial photography work. She decided to become an ag-pilot and attended Battleford’s Airspray school for her training. She started her first season in a C-188 Ag Wagon in 2017. In 2018, she flew the AT-401 and now has three seasons completed.
Laura agrees something that is very common for women flying ag is: Growers arrive at the airstrip and ask her, “Where is the pilot?” And, she replies, “I’m the pilot.” Growers feel a little embarrassed and surprised. They are not used to seeing a woman flying a spray plane. It’s only a matter of time and the surprised faces are replaced with a more natural look, “Hi aviatrix! Are you the pilot spraying my field today?”
Laura Lima is 30 years old, graduating from CAVAG agricultural aviation school, Aero Agricola Santos Dumont in Rio Grande do Sul in 2012. During her training as a private pilot, she had the desire to fly ag. She had 800 hours that including working as a flight instructor before she started her ag training. Today, she has completed seven seasons in several Brazilian states.
Laura considers two things to be major accomplishments since becoming an ag pilot. The first was to learn to fly in the hilly region of Ribeira Valley treating bananas. She flew bananas for two years and says the flying requires a lot of situational awareness and skill because of the hills.
Laura’s second major accomplishment in her seven-season ag-pilot career is flying the Air Tractor 502 XP. “It is a wonderful aircraft with power to spare, in addition to a lot of comfort and safety factors; a dream of almost every agricultural pilot. Laura believes she is fulfilled with her agricultural aviation dreams but is always acquiring more and more experience, performing her role as an ag-pilot better every day with more promptness and professionalism.
It is good to come from an aviation family. It is good when your spouse is an ag-pilot, too. However, when a woman grows up as a third-generation pilot and marries an ag-pilot, it becomes the perfect combination for being a female ag-pilot. Such was the case with Emily Daniel after marrying her F-16 / ag-pilot, Austin Daniel.
Emily started flying at 14 with her father, who is a retired American Airlines pilot. Several years later, she met her future husband, Austin, at the Flying W Airport in New Jersey. The Daniel family-owned Wings Aerial Applicators and the Flying W Airport. It wasn’t long after that positively fateful weekend that Austin and Emily married.
The couple moved to Texas and later Arizona for Austin to complete his F-16 training in the Air National Guard. During this time, Emily, as a CFII, taught flying lessons, hauled parachute jumpers and ferried aircraft building flight time. Returning to New Jersey with Austin, Emily started her training for flying ag the same way Austin had done nearly 10 years ago; flying a Pawnee, then moving up to the Weatherly 201B. She completed her second season in 2019. She has also opened a flight school for the off-season called, Chick and Rudder Aviation.
Maria Aparecida dos Santos
Maria Aparecida dos Santos was born in Itiquira, a city in the interior of Mato Grosso. She is proud of her state’s wealth and large number of agribusinesses.
In 2006, she started her life in aviation with all the difficulties to pay for the hours. Then she did the private pilot course as it was not possible to do all the portfolios at once. So she went to live in the hangar to complete these other portfolios.
Maria flew executive aviation for a few years, then moved to Campinas in search of opportunities with airlines, but agricultural aviation kept drawing her to it. In 2011, she completed her first season as an ag-pilot.
Maria says that the greatest joy for her is the participation of women in agriculture, feeding the world and believing in their potential in all areas, especially in agribusiness. Furthermore, she says agricultural aviation was one of the best career choices she made within aviation. Like Juliana Coppick, she is married to an agricultural pilot as well.
Marie Joyce B. Gascon
Captain Marie Joyce B. Gascon recently became the first Filipino spray pilot. Captain Gascon, a registered nurse, wanted to pursue her love of aviation. She attended a flight school near Davao City, which is in the southern Philippines. She wanted an aviation career that suited her lifestyle and that turned out to be ag-aviation.
Training under Captain Domenico Rafael C. Venuti, the chief pilot of Davao Aerowurkz Corporation (DAC), she earned her Ag-Cat G164 rating in a dual-cockpit Ag-Cat with a P&W R-985 engine. She now flies Ag-Cats for DAC. She is completing her first year flying ag.
Established in 2007, DAC has a fleet of 15 aircraft. The company is primarily engaged in providing agricultural aerial spraying services in Mindanao. The primary crop treated is bananas.
Female ag-pilots face unique issues during their flying career. In some cases, they have to decide on ingenious ways to overcome the strength needed for the job. If they want to have children, that has to be addressed. But, most importantly, they have to overcome the natural idea that ag-pilots are males. As this article points out, that it not true. There are at least six women that are actively flying ag and are successful at it. There will be more and they will do just as well. They deserve March as their special month of recognition.