National agricultural aviation association


Being an ag pilot is one of the most exciting jobs in aviation. It requires tremendous skill and precision. If you are good at and enjoy aviation video games, or enjoy the outdoors and rural living, you may be a perfect addition to the agricultural aviation industry.

Agricultural aviation is not an easy job.

It takes a significant amount of training, and the hours can be long during the busy flying season. For most pilots, agricultural aviation is a fulfilling job. Ag pilots provide an essential service to farmers, foresters and the public at large. Ag pilots love their ability to soar through the skies in beautiful and serene farm and forestry country. In many areas across the country it is also a seasonal job, which can allow for other leisure or professional opportunities in the offseason.

If you are interested in becoming an ag pilot, NAAA offers a program called Compaass Rose, a series of education sessions in which veteran ag pilots introduce potential recruits to the world of aerial application. The Ag Aviation Career Advice below contains links to several articles and resources that will give you more information about working in the agricultural aviation industry.

Career Information and Advice for Current and Aspiring Ag Pilots

Fly-By Farming: Combining expert skill with new technology allows for precision aerial application (Virginia Living, October 2020)
As a specialist in aerial application (or “crop dusting,” as lay people call it), Matt Crabbe of Crabbe Aviation in Mechanicsville has spent decades of his life taking in a bird’s eye view of the state’s agriculture. If you’re imagining an old-fashioned open cockpit plane with a goggles-clad aviator at the controls, however, the reality is considerably more 21st century. Read more.

Unlike Their Airline Peers, Some Pilots Who’ve Taken The Route Less Traveled Are In Demand 
(Forbes, Nov. 5, 2020)
Scott Palmer is a crop duster, or aerial applicator, as the industry calls it. He flies for a small company in Pullman, Washington, called Inland Crop Care and, like other ag pilots, he’s seen no drop in business since the pandemic hit. Read more.

Sims’ Time (Agricultural Aviation, Summer 2020)
Flight simulators designed specifically for agricultural aviation offer ag pilots an added training dimension. Read more

The Importance of Mentoring (Agricultural Aviation, Fall 2019)
To refortify agriculture’s Air Force as baby boomers retire, more mentoring is a must. Read more

Mentor-Mentee Do’s and Dont’s (Agricultural Aviation, Fall 2019)
Whether you are mentoring a new ag pilot or being mentored as one, adhering to these do’s and dont’s will lead to a smother mentoring experience. Read more

How to Transition Safely into Different Ag Aircraft (Agricultural Aviation, Fall 2019)
It seems that today’s aerial applicator feels that the pinnacle of the profession is getting into the biggest and/or fastest airplane available. Well, new ag pilots have a lot to learn about their new profession outside of just handling the aircraft, and a proper outlook is not to rush the process. Read more

The Golden Boys (Agricultural Aviation, Fall 2019)
These seasoned agricultural aviators have gotten better with age. Read more

Mentoring Ag Pilots from the Ground Up (Agricultural Aviation, Fall 2018)
Breaking into the aerial spraying business is no easy feat. Most people with no connections to the industry are drawn to ag flight schools to gain the skills and the opportunity to find their first seat. Schooling and education are only a small part of becoming a safe and successful ag pilot. The unique thing about aerial applicators is you don’t need a college degree or even a piece of paper saying you completed an ag flight school to become an aerial applicator. In many cases you may be better off finding an operator that is looking for a future pilot and working with them to possibly become your mentor. This mentor may train you in house or they may even help send you to a school that meets their standards. Read more

Flight Training: Different Schools of Thought (Agricultural Aviation, Spring 2018)
Agricultural Aviation gets the low-down seven schools and eight training options for current and future ag pilots. Read more

Agricultural Aviation’s Bright Future (Agricultural Aviation, Spring 2017)
A renowed forecaster and corporate strategist considers the long-term outlook of the agricultural aviation industry over the next 50 years and likes what he sees. Read more

PODCAST: Agricultural Flying Careers (Aviation Careers Podcast, December 10, 2015)
Leif Isaacson, an agricultural pilot and past president of the National Agricultural Aviation Association, joined Aviation Careers Podcast to help listeners understand the challenges and rewards of agricultural flying careers. Listen here

The Role of Aerial Application (CropLife, September 6, 2012)
Factors associated with aerial application’s explosive growth over the past few years include the advent of new corn fungicides, and advances in flight technology that allow for more timely, efficient and effective crop protection product applications. Read more

Fighting Fires: See the red plumes of retardant dropping from red and white planes? The cavalry has arrived (Texas Co-op Power, November 2011)
On August 30, aerial firefighter Marc Mullis abruptly ends a telephone interview mid-sentence. “I’m getting a signal,” he says, referring to a dispatch on his cellphone. “We just got a fire. I gotta go.” Read more

Landing a Seat: Wanted: Ag pilots who can fly tail wheel, stick and rudder—and tell the difference between soybeans and alfalfa (Texas Co-op Power, November 2011)
The pilots file into the room, looking for a seat in a circle of chairs. There’s plenty of room—no need to jockey for position. But mere minutes into a mentoring session at the 2011 Texas Agricultural Aviation Association (TAAA) convention, a harsh message is sinking in: Not just anybody can become an ag pilot. It takes someone special to land a seat. Read more

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: Crop dusters no more: modern-day aerial applicators leave the past in the dust (Texas Co-op Power, November 2011)
Several years ago, George Mitchell received a complaint phone call from a woman saying a low-flying airplane from his Beaumont-based aerial spraying business was going to crash into her house. Mitchell explained that: A) such a crash would kill the pilot, who certainly had no intention of dying that day; and B) the pilot was seeding rice, which required making low flying passes over a field. Read more

The Building of a Bird: Even as we pull a couple of Gs, it’s smooth soaring in a one-of-a-kind plane making only its second flight (Texas Co-op Power, November 2011)
Our freshly painted, shiny yellow bird waits outside the Air Tractor factory, resting on a patch of concrete. With blue stripes racing along the sides and up the tail and blue ribbons wrapping the ends of the wings, the airplane looks like a ready-to-open present. Read more

In Search of America’s Next Ag Pilot (Agricultural Aviation, March/April 2010)
It sounds simple enough on the surface. The aerial application industry needs new pilots, and new pilots want to get into ag aviation. The reality is newcomers must overcome several obstacles before they can earn a seat, none bigger than earning the trust of a willing mentor. But who is willing to mentor? And who is worthy of being mentored? Read more

Flying Low Is Flying High As Demand for Crop-Dusters Soars: For Pilots Outstanding in the Field, Killing Weeds From the Air Can Pay Off (Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2009)
In a tough job market for the aviation industry, demand for one niche is booming: crop-dusting. But if you’re an aspiring pilot like Ben Peterson, you’ve got to get past guys like Dusty Dowd. Read more

Insuring New Ag Pilots (Agricultural Aviation, May/June 2009)
It’s the same old dilemma that has confronted all of us who ever desired to fly for a living. How do I get insured without enough hours, and how do I get enough hours unless I can get insured? Read more

The Benefits of Being an Ag Pilot (Agricultural Aviation, March/April 2008)
Being an ag pilot is one of the most exciting jobs in aviation. Read more