Breaking In and Entering
It’s not easy breaking into the agricultural aviation industry. According to a 2012 industry survey NAAA commissioned, less than 3,000 pilots are active in the industry. There are ven fewer aerial application businesses in the U.S.—approximately 1,350—and, on average, each of them have 2. 1 aircraft. That translates to 2,835 ag aircraft. Two-thirds of
the industry’s fleet had turbine engines at the time of the 2012 survey, a percentage that is
undoubtedly higher today.
For anyone who aspires to become a professional ag pilot, those figures can lead to a
sobering conclusion: Breaking in is tough! It absolutely is, but with the right attitude, a little
luck and a lot of gumption, it is possible. Two Millennials, Rob Aslesen and JT Capers, are
proof of that. Although both young men possessed a commercial pilot’s certificate, neither
had any direct ties to the agricultural aviation industry. But they found a way. Today, Capers
is the chief pilot for Curless Flying Service in Astoria, Ill., and Aslesen owns and operators his
own company, Aerial Farm Services in Imperial, Neb.
Baby Boomers may still be the largest segment of the agricultural aviation industry, but
their days are numbered. As they age, the window of opportunity is opening wider for a new
generation of pilots, like Aslesen and Capers, to step forward and carry the load. Read on to
find out how they broke into the industry and rose up the ranks at their respective operations.
Two Millennials with minimal
contacts worked their way
into the agricultural aviation
industry and are at the top
of their game now
STAMP OF APPROVAL The aircraft shown
above aren’t just any ag planes. The last two
letters in the N number tell the story—of the
confidence their respective operators placed in
two young pilots, Rob Aslesen and JT Capers.