Becoming an Application Pilot

The Career

Becoming an application pilot requires a long-term commitment to the industry – it is not a ‘make-up hours’ or ‘just another qualification’ exercise.

Aerial application is one of the most demanding types of flying. Often conducted at very low level – a few metres above the ground when spraying – the flying must be based on professionalism and a very high degree of ‘stick and rudder’ aptitude.

The culture of the industry is very mission-focussed on doing a good – and safe – job for our clients. For this reason, a healthy personal attitude towards safety, teamwork and a sound personal knowledge of products and application technology is essential.

Aerial application includes the following operations and others:

  • spraying of crops
  • applying granular products
  • fertilizing crops and pasture (topdressing)
  • sowing seed
  • firebombing

Aerial application companies are almost universally located in rural and regional Australia and this is a very attractive feature of the career, where the ability to sustain an aviation career goes hand-in-hand with a great lifestyle and community.

Aerial application is generally very seasonal, meaning that months of little activity may be followed by periods of intense high-tempo operations.

Aerial application can be a very rewarding career for any pilot that is up for a challenging daily work environment, has good stick and rudder skills, is committed to ongoing professional development and has a very strong commitment to safety.

Aerial application is not a career only for pilots – there are a range of other occupations that make up the industry, ranging from LAMEs (aircraft engineers) to operations managers, loader-mixers and secretarial staff.

If you would like to discuss a career in aerial application, contact the AAAA office.


There are two examinations required to progress from a Commercial Pilots Licence to an application pilot:

  • AAAA Spraysafe Pilots Examination – The AAAA Spraysafe pilot accreditation is recognised by all States and Territories for the issuing of a Chemical Distribution Licence (or equivalent) – which is mandatory before conducting any application operation.  The AAAA Spraysafe Exam is based on the Spraysafe Manual: Edition 2: 2019.  The exam can be ordered direct from AAAA (see, but must be externally supervised and will be express mailed only to the nominated and approved supervisor.  Once the exam is successfully passed, the Spraysafe accreditation can be used to apply to each State/Territory where you will be operating for a licence.  Spraysafe accreditation lasts for 3 years and must be kept current to ensure you comply with licencing conditions.  This can be done by participating in the AAAA Professional Pilot Program (eg by attending AAAA approved events) or by resitting a Spraysafe exam.

Training & Licensing of Pilots

On a worldwide basis, Australia requires the highest standard of aerial application pilot qualification.

Aerial application aircraft pilots are highly trained and licensed, and can only be described as professional.

To obtain an aerial application rating a pilot must first obtain a commercial pilots license (and medical) and then attend a school approved and supervised by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for an intensive application flying and theory course.

On completion of this course, following flying and written examinations conducted by CASA, the pilot is issued with an Aerial Application Rating.

During their initial introduction to the industry (110 flying hours), the pilot operates under the supervision of a CASA-approved Chief Pilot. All application pilots are required to maintain currency and to complete an annual Operator Proficiency Check.

All States/Territories require the pilot to hold an Agricultural Chemical License or Rating. This involves a Spraysafe examination conducted by the AAAA and accepted by the regulatory authorities such as Primary Industries & Environment.

Pilot requirements

Before a pilot can conduct aerial application work, he or she must have the following:

  • A CASA issued Commercial Pilots Licence
  • A CASA issued Application Rating
  • The required numbers of flying hours for currency
  • Proficiency on type endorsement (eg aircraft class endorsement)
  • A Chemical Distribution licence – the AAAA Spraysafe manual and exam is accepted by all States and Territories
  • Employment by an operator (business owner) and completion of 110 flying hours of supervision.

Practical Experience

There are a range of additional qualifications and practical experience that will make any application pilot starting out more attractive to an operator.

The key qualification and a clear signal of your commitment to the industry is to attain experience as a loader/mixer working in the industry.

Loader/mixers play a critical role in aerial application and make a significant contribution to operational efficiency and safety.  They prepare/mix chemical loads for each job and are often a key company representative.

Experience as a loader/mixer will ensure you are already familiar with the industry, have a clear knowledge of chemicals and other products used, understand mixing and safety procedures, aircraft set-up, spray quality, drift management and the basics of the industry, as well as understanding typical work flows and systems, including job orders, mapping, risk assessments and working with the pilot as a team.

Loader/mixer experience in addition to pilot qualifications is highly valued by business owners when considering whether to employ a less experienced pilot starting out on their application career.

Other qualifications / experience that may also be attractive to employers include:

  • attitude – team player, flexible, committed and enthusiastic.
  • Spraysafe accreditation – accredited staff are a requirement for businesses to maintain their own Spraysafe accreditation
  • other licences such as truck driver licence, forklift ticket, DG etc

AAAA Members Aerial Application Flying Training

There are a number of aerial application training schools in Australia. The following list are members of the AAAA and we encourage you to support your members.

Fixed Wing

Barry Foster
Woorayl Air Services
Leongatha VIC 3953
Phone: 03 5664 3288

Harley McKillop
LAF Aviation
Scone, NSW, 2337
Phone: 0427 448 802

Steve Rossington
Field Air Group
Phone: 03 5330 9330

Andrew Mason
Phone: 03 5776 4343

Paul Sharp
Sharp Aviation Services

Northern Territory
Phone: 0427 172 502


Bruce Colwell
Tasmanian Helicopters Pty Ltd
Devonport TAS 7310
Phone: 03 6426 1623

Fergus Frater
Helicom Helicopters

Phone: 0400 700 035