Home-EditorialsHow Old Did You Say?

How Old Did You Say?

Have you noticed the surprising number of ag pilots receiving the FAA’s Master Pilot award? It seems like an inordinate number just recently received this award, including my “old” friend Mark Gary of Mississippi. There have been several others in the last couple of months. It is almost as if the FAA saved up and awarded many ag pilots all at once! I know they did not wait until pilots crossed the 50-year mark to give the award. A good example is Mark. Shoot, he has been flying for a lot more than 50 years!

The FAA snuck into AgAir Update’s office a month ago and surprised me with the Master Pilot award. I crossed the 50-year mark last August 2023. Having the FAA walk into your office unannounced is always a little unnerving. This was even more true this time for me. I only go into the office about once a week to gather any mail that may have reached my old desk. It just so “happened” that the day I stopped by, the FAA came in and asked for me.

To say I was wary would better describe my feelings. Even the FAA is not good at “sneaking,” showing up at just the right time! You guessed it. Graham, my son, had a hand in bringing this recognition to fruition. He also coordinated the visit by calling me at home telling me he had an important issue to discuss, could I come by the office at 11:00 am? Of course, what else did I have to do?

As any ag pilot with 50 years of experience will tell you, it wasn’t easy staying out of the trees and wires those years. Fifty years give ample time for the pilot to make mistakes, often ones that make you realize it wasn’t your day to go to the Lord. What you learn from those mistakes makes crossing the 50-year mark obtainable, as well as all the other challenges that life throws at you.

I can imagine the thoughts you beginner ag pilots with only 20 years or so of ag-flying experience are having (joke). You probably think we old-timers need to retire and get out of the way. In some cases, you would be correct, but not all. Some things can be learned from someone who has beaten the odds for 50 years. All ag-pilots should be as fortunate. If you notice, I did not write lucky. You make your luck, and it is called fortune. You do not fly ag safely without adhering to a flying style that will most likely bring you home at the end of the day.

The next time you talk with an old timer, give him some respect and pick his brain for how he got to where he is today. You will almost certainly learn something!Until next month, Keep Turning…





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