By lex, on August 14th, 2009
Crop dusting is the way to go, apparently:
“Aerial application” — the name many pilots prefer to “crop-dusting” — is a hot field, thanks in part to the recent farming boom. Crop-dusters spread fertilizer, insecticides, fungicides and weed killers. Some farmers even seed from the air. Skilled agricultural, or “ag,” pilots typically make from $60,000 to $100,000 a year, and those who own spraying businesses can earn much more. Salaries for pilots at small airlines start at $20,000 and rarely get anywhere near six figures.
Like many young fliers, Mr. Peterson was on track to become an airline pilot. But airlines are struggling, canceling routes, cutting pay and laying off pilots. He inquired about a co-pilot job with a regional airline but lost interest after learning the starting pay was $22,000. “You could almost do that at 7-Eleven,” he says.
That sure looks like fun. But first you’ve got to get past the gate-keeper:
Nearly every move Mr. Peterson made at the controls of the 1947 Piper Super Cruiser, used for training, elicited critical shouts from Mr. Dowd, who was showing him the ropes. First Mr. Dowd, 58 years old, the owner of Syracuse Flying Service Inc. and a virtuoso crop sprayer, told his student to stop looking at instruments on the dashboard and simply watch where he was going. Then Mr. Dowd pointed out that Mr. Peterson had allowed a crosswind to carry the plane off course. As Mr. Peterson, 29, started a corrective turn, Mr. Dowd yelled that he was skidding (using too much rudder) or slipping (not using enough). “Can’t you feel what’s happening?” he asked. Mr. Peterson didn’t measure up. Few do.
Got to be willing to do hangar chores and mix pesticides, too.