2013 WNAAA Scholarship Winner: Second Place

The Role Ag Aviation Has Played in Shaping My Life
Author:  By Brittany Kerr
Henry Ford once said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” 
I didn’t grow up in a flying family. While I had a great uncle who was an ag pilot in the 1950s, my only experiences with ag aviation were admiring local ag pilots as they artfully flew around my family’s farm and a sixth grade field trip to the local airport for plane rides with our teacher’s husband, a local ag pilot. From that point on, I knew I wanted to fly. Secretly, I dreamed of becoming a pilot but assumed that this goal was out of reach without any personal ties to aviation. Instead, I settled for eagerly awaiting mornings when the buzz of a turbine ag plane flying overhead would signal the beginning of another summer day. 
On the last day of junior high, I took my first solo flight in an unconventional manner. At age 14, I was involved in a car accident where I was ejected through the front windshield of the vehicle. This solo endeavor earned me a medevac flight to a local trauma center and left me with the realization that life is too short to be unhappy. From that point forward, I embarked on a personal quest to find a career that I truly loved. 
As I neared the end of college, my mind began to fill with panic. Instead of being excited about moving on to Physician Assistants’ school, I was overwhelmed with dread. I couldn’t imagine another two years of school, let alone beginning a career I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. A week before college graduation, much to my parents’ dismay, I declined PA school admission and made plans to move home to the family farm so I could help manage our operation while my grandparents struggled with health issues. As a temporary job, I agreed to work in the office of a local aerial applicator while another employee went on maternity leave. That was in 2010 and today, I’m still here. 
From my very first day on the job, I knew I’d found the industry I wanted to spend my career in. I instantly loved every aspect of the environment—the smell of jet fuel in the mornings, the sight of an Air Tractor on the horizon and the sound of a turbine engine on a summer evening. I began looking forward to waking up every morning so I could get to the airport.
To me, ag aviation isn’t just a career, it’s become a way of life. I went from being told that my dreams were out of reach and that agriculture couldn’t be a part of my career to being a private pilot who has the privilege of spending each day helping applicators and producers work to feed the world’s growing population. I went from feeling as if I’d spend every day of my working life in a job that I didn’t enjoy to making plans to devote the rest of my career to furthering our industry. 
Most importantly, agricultural aviation has given me a place where I know I truly belong. For so many years, it seemed as if everything was going against me. I struggled to find my purpose and path. Surrounded by my airport family, I have been given the strength and support to face personal and professional challenges head on, using the skills I have developed in this industry to take to the skies with dignity and the reassurance that no matter how distant a goal may seem, it can be achieved. 
In life, we all may follow a different heading and face turbulence from time to time. Agricultural aviation has helped me plot a course for the future and I can’t imagine my life any other way. ♦
Brittany Kerr is a private pilot from Highmore, S.D. She is employed as an agronomist and aerial relations specialist with NCFE Custom Air LLC. After graduating from South Dakota State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and Chemistry, Brittany returned home to manage the family farm and custom combining operation alongside her father and grandfather. She has worked full time in the agricultural aviation industry since 2010. Brittany graduated with a Master’s Degree in Agriculture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in December 2013. Her degree specialty is aviation and her thesis focused on risk management and professional operating standards within agricultural aviation.