Bill Lavender began his aviation career in 1973 when he obtained his private/commercial and Certified Flying Instructor (CFI) certificates. He progressed from flying banners and skydivers to active ag (agricultural) flying as an operator and pilot in Central Georgia until the early 2000s. Bill has amassed over 14,000 flight hours doing precision aerial application at low levels protecting crops for central Georgia farmers.
During his time as an agricultural aviation operator, Bill became involved with the Georgia Agricultural Aviation Association. He served as its representative to the National Agricultural Aviation Association for many years. As a Director, Bill assumed responsibility for the small, 8 1/2" x 11," association newsletter. Bill purchased the rights to this newsletter in 1985 and started what today is called AgAir Update. It is the leading source of information for the aerial application industry. Before his retirement, Bill had grown AgAir Update into a magazine with a worldwide readership in three different languages: English, Portuguese, and Spanish.
As the leading voice in aerial application from 1980 through the 2000s, Bill had the opportunity to fly and evaluate over 150 different agricultural aircraft, each with its unique modification and handling characteristics. His evaluation flights provided critical insight, information, and safety applications to the agricultural aviation industry.
In the mid-1990s, the agricultural aviation industry found itself with an emergent need to self-regulate. Their goal was to decrease fatalities and increase professionalism within the industry. Bill was an integral part of the development of the Professional Aerial Applicator Support System (PAASS). He was a member of its steering committee, which formed the framework for the program going forward. Facing relentless opposition during its early days, Bill wrote countless articles about the program's importance which indirectly influenced its continued development and acceptance by championing it in his publication, AgAir Update. Since its founding, PAASS has decreased the agricultural aviation fatality rate by over 80%, a goal which was initially set forth during the program’s inception.
Bill’s contribution to the agricultural aviation industry spans over 40 years. Every month, without fail, readers worldwide were brought together by articles, new product announcements, safety messages and the basic desire to learn and read about agricultural aviation. This continuous insight, some say, can be attributed to the advancement of an industry so vital to the world’s food and fiber production.
Throughout his career, Bill has achieved the following awards and commendations:
Bill retired from active ag flying in 2000 to focus on his publications and retired from general aviation flying in 2021. During his four-decade aviation career, he has owned and operated over 15 aircraft, from AgWagons to Turbine Thrush and Barons. Bill taught his son to fly at a very early age, continuing the family aviation tradition. AgAir Update is currently owned by Bill’s son; however, he still works as a consultant for the publication. Bill resides in Perry, Georgia.