CLEVELAND, Miss. (WJTV)- Delta State University’s (DSU) Department of Commercial Aviation was recently appropriated $2 million by the United States Senate to implement an Agricultural Aircraft Operations Career Pathway (AAOCP) program in the Mississippi Delta. 

Requested by U. S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, the funding will establish a partnership-based program to increase the number of safe and insurable agriculture pilots in Mississippi and potentially other approved states. 

Currently, it’s the only program of its kind in the state with Delta State offering the state university system’s only undergraduate and graduate aviation programs.

Delta State has been designated as the lead agency for this award and will partner with Mississippi Delta Community College, local WIN Job Centers, Blues Air, Agricultural Flight Operator (AFO) businesses and the South Delta Planning and Development District to develop the pathway leading private pilots to advanced certification in Aerial Applications. 

The program is designed to provide farmers with qualified Aerial Applicators to meet their yearly demand by encouraging and motivating private pilots to succeed in completing a career pathway in Agricultural Aircraft Operations. 

The program will target pilots with a Private Pilot Single Engine Land and a minimum of 100 hours as a pilot in command.

The grant will initially offset the cost to pilots accepted into the program to offer an FAA commercial, instrument rating, turbine engine training and flight training specific to an ag-adapted aircraft. 

After completing training at Delta State and from the partner Aerial Applicator businesses, the pilot will take the Agricultural Aviation Exam (AAE) to prove they have the skills to operate the plane while applying chemicals to farm fields safely. 

Once the pilot has passed their AAE Exam, they will be placed with an Agricultural Flight Operator and participate in an internship provided by the WIN Job Center and South Delta Planning and Development District.  

Pilots who might be interested in the program will need to be sponsored by an Aerial Applicator business.