How to Become a Spray Plane Pilot

Being a spray plane pilot means spending a lot of time alone as you sweep the fields.
i Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

If you're an adventurous woman who has always wanted to fly a plane and you're looking for an unusual career, consider becoming a spray plane pilot. Spray plane pilots, also known as crop dusters, perform a vital service for farmers by spraying fields with insecticides to prevent infestation. It’s a somewhat lonely job -- just you, the plane and the fields -- but it's also a dangerous job. Women possessing the qualities to pursue this occupation can get started fairly quickly.

Getting a Pilot’s License

    Becoming a student pilot is as easy as driving to your nearest flight school and signing up for lessons. The program you choose should be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In the beginning you will fly with an instructor. Lessons will cover takeoffs, landings and emergency responses. When the instructor feels that you are ready, you'll fly solo, but first you'll have to obtain a student license and get medical clearance, typically a certificate your doctor signs.

Training for Agricultural Spraying

    Agricultural spraying, or crop dusting, requires obtaining a commercial pilot’s license. Requirements for a commercial pilot’s license include 250 flight hours and successful completion of a written exam covering FAA rules and regulations. Applicants also must take a physical exam, which includes a vision check. Pilots are required to have vision that is correctable to 20/20, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Applicants also take a flying test that's reviewed by a FAA examiner. Some agriculture spraying companies offer training classes for interested applicants. Getting into a company-sponsored training program can help you find a job.

Finding a Job

    Since being a spray pilot is hazardous work, companies and farmers are careful about the pilots they hire. Finding a position is even more challenging for a woman entering this male-dominated field. Getting a sponsor, usually an industry veteran, can help you find employment. Referrals can also help, so try to excel in your first few jobs and farmers will spread the word about your skills.


    Despite claims of lucrative paydays, do your homework before entering the field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists crop dusting as one of the most dangerous jobs. Flying at low altitudes while trying to avoid power lines and other obstacles can be hazardous. You must make quick turns and maneuvers at high speeds, requiring you to be alert at all times.

the nest