About the Cherry Drying Posts

And why they’re were password protected.

Drying CherriesA few weeks ago, it came to my attention that this blog was the primary source of information about cherry drying by helicopter. Every day, pilots who wanted to learn more about cherry drying were stopping in to read up.

Normally, I’d be pleased. But I also began to realize that these same pilots were using the information I provided to compete with me for cherry drying work.

That would simply not do.

The truth of the matter is, there simply isn’t enough work to go around. Every year, I struggle to get my contracts together and signed and then struggle some more to get my standby pay. Other pilots I know who have been doing this work far longer than I have go through the same process. None of us can afford to have competition for what little work is out there.

In my case, it’s particularly tough. I travel from Arizona to Washington and back at considerable cost. This year, I made the trip with only one contract signed. If I hadn’t been able to secure other work, I would have taken a heavy loss.

In this tough economy, I depend on this work to keep my business afloat. Without it, I’d likely have to sell the helicopter. Right now, there simply isn’t enough tour and charter work out there to cover the cost of my fixed expenses, such as insurance, annual maintenance, and hangaring.

So I’ve password-protected the posts, making them inaccessible to most visitors. I’ll likely remove the password once my friends and I stop doing this work.

August 2013 Update: Since writing this blog post, I’ve moved to Washington state. I’m very secure in my cherry drying work with great clients that I serve faithfully year after year. Indeed, I’ve built the kind of relationships with my clients that I’m proud of. I have so much work during the busiest part of the season that I’m actively looking for other helicopter pilots with their own helicopters to work with me. If you’re an owner/operator with an R44 helicopter, at least 500 hours helicopter experience, and a month or so free every summer and you want to get started in this work, visit the Help Wanted page on Flying M Air’s website to learn more about opportunities.

The rest of this post still applies.

Some Important Things to Know about Cherry Drying

I do need to say a few things about cherry drying for the folks looking for information.

  • Cherry drying requires a helicopter. If you don’t have a helicopter, you cannot dry cherries. Any company that has helicopters for this kind of work already has pilots. Inexperienced pilots cannot expect to be hired for this kind of work by a company that already has helicopters and pilots.
  • Cherry drying is not a good way to build time. I got less than 20 hours of drying time this summer. I got around 5 hours each of the previous two years. Do you really want to blow a whole summer sitting around in farm country waiting for it to rain just to get 5 to 20 hours of flight time?
  • Cherry drying is not for low-time pilots. When you work, you’re hovering 5 feet over treetops, sometimes in very windy conditions. That means tailwinds and crosswinds and LTE. There’s a lot of dancing on the pedals. There’s a real need to know the helicopter you’re flying.
  • Cherry drying is dangerous. All operations are inside the deadman’s curve. If you have an engine problem, you will crash. Read these accident reports to get a better idea of what can happen: SEA05CA122, SEA04LA102, LAX02LA169, SEA00LA101, SEA00LA103, WPR09LA371, and WPR11CA146

I know a lot of helicopter pilots — especially low-time helicopter pilots — out there are desperate for work. If you’re one of them, I can assure you that cherry drying isn’t the solution you’re looking for.

9 thoughts on “About the Cherry Drying Posts

  1. That’s too bad about the cherry drying posts. I have enjoyed them. Didn’t even know the industry existed until I started reading your blog.

  2. Good post and good information. I met you via radio this summer when we needed a little extra help after the rain. I was working for JG in the 12E. Cheers!

  3. Yeah, bummer to see those posts go. Last time I read them was this season when a high time pilot invited me to ride along with him on his cherry drying contract. For 2 weeks of waiting, I only ended up at the airport for one 10-hr day, and he only had 1 small orchard to dry that day (which amounted to a 0.8 hr flight, including the 0.3 to and from the airport). I’ll second the idea that cherry drying isn’t for low time pilots. Between the wind, altitude, and obstructions, it was a pretty tense flight for me.

  4. @chris
    It’s a funny thing…some guys are so desperate for jobs and flight time that they’ll take ANYTHING they can without really looking into it. One year I was on point for 6 weeks and got just a bit more than 5 hours of flight time; the next year I was on point for 9 weeks and got less than 5 hours of flight time. This is NOT time-building. If I didn’t have other things to do to keep me busy — working on books, photography, etc. — I’d go out of my mind with boredom. I do enjoy getting away, though, and I don’t need to build time, so it works for me.

    The obstructions are what bug me most. Wind machines, wires, trees, buildings, even hills. I’m pretty good a dancing on the pedals these days, but the obstructions are what makes the job tough for me.

  5. We have not done any cherry dryibg for a couple of seasons now. More work is comming from the vineyards in doing frost protection. This has been our busiest frost season and probably the first viable one. Any of this work is definately not for hour builders, and to make it worse we did most of our flying from the hours of 12am to 6 am so there is the darkness issue.

  6. @Ashley Dickson
    A friend of mine wants to get involved with frost protection. I tried to e-mail you, but the message bounced back. Any more information you can share? My friend is trying to track down a light bar that’ll work on an R44.

    Personally, I have no desire to hover over anything in the dark.

  7. You wont find Frost Control all that difficult if the grower sets the paddock up correctly. They have lights now that are temerature sensitive, red O” Flashing Red Below )”, white 1″ and green 2″. So with all these likghts spread around the paddock you have good visual reference for flying and you can see by the colour of the lights where you have to circulate the air. Flying height is dependant on where you find the warmer air, could be anywhere from 30 to 120 ft, once you find a good height just flyiy slowly over the red lights until they change to white.@Maria Langer

What do you think?