Enjoy these tales told in parallel by two wannabes, both of whom had a burning desire to fly agricultural aircraft and become qualified, working Ag Pilots in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Peter Lawton and John Hoyte describe their separate tactics and routes towards achieving their Holy Grails. Their paths crossed for the first time in 1977 and then again in 2014 when they realised that they each had a story to tell. They wrote this book because they wanted to share their stories of Ag pilot adventures with a wider audience. This book is for all those who are interested in aviation and flying small agile planes in sometimes dangerous environments.
The two Ag Pilots spill the beans on flying Pawnees, Piper Super Cubs, De Havilland Beavers, Austers and Cessna Ag Wagons to keep the bugs off peas and potatoes, fertilize cereals and put the flavour into grapes. They describe in detail the sheer exhilaration of flying less than six feet above the crop at 100 mph, manoeuvring round obstacles and flying under wires.
Hear about their unscheduled landings on remote Kenyan highways and in farmer’s fields, the oil rig disasters, motivating sheep in Oxfordshire, getting into and out of spins, hitting the only tree in a treeless field and the only boulder on a grass field take off. They fly their way out of trouble under 11,000 volt electric wires, and sometimes fly through them, getting the colossal electricity bill to prove it. They’ve avoided grumpy, one-legged swans, ran out of fuel, manoeuvred narrow landing strips, crashed through hedges, got lost in the rain and just about managed to not “buy the farm”.
The book captures the almost complete absence of Health & Safety during those early days, and the fun and freedom this breed of flying offered. They share their hundreds of hours of training, exams, failure and success, learning the trade, sharpening their skills, changing course and direction as they face challenges and health problems. P-turns, Porteus Loops and press-on-itis have been taken in their stride.
Their stories take you from Kenya to Norfolk, South Australia to Weston-super-Mare, Kuala Lumpur to Gloucestershire, Zimbabwe to Welshpool, following roads and railway lines, through valleys and over fields. They’ve flown in all weathers, through floods, with iced up wings, had fires, lost undercarriages, tail wheels and rudders. They’ve had near misses with Gazelle RAF helicopters, fought bushfires in Australia, shared airspace with the RAF, battled charges of violating controlled airspace, been found guilty until proven innocent, unceremoniously lost a Flying Instructor’s Rating before the 2012 Olympics, and the two men have fought on.
Both authors have, between them flown off an aircraft carrier, flown commercial airliners, taught many others to fly, performed at air displays, water bombed fires and crop sprayed in Australia and Africa, operated DC3s with detergent spraying equipment and become sick from flying airliners.
A Tale of Two Ag Pilots offers a unique insight into two extremely unusual, interwoven career paths with all their ups and downs, and during these adventures they’ve got married, brought up families, lived in caravans, raised funds, bought and sold planes, and started their own companies. Their fights go on as they expose whitewashes and cover ups in the commercial airline industry, working to save others from ill health.
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