Past three winners hail from area
by Jack Criss
The Bolivar Bullet
It must be something in the water. Or, in this case, the air.
For the past three years, ag pilots from Bolivar County have won the coveted “Pilot Of The Year” award presented by the MAAA (Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association) at their annual convention held on the Gulf Coast. The most recent winner, Elliot Hendrix, was preceded by two his fellow pilots, Eli Herbison and Darryll McCreary, out of a statewide pool. The award can only go to individual pilots, not operators or owners.
“It’s quite an honor,” said Hendrix, winner of the 2022 “Pilot Of The Year.” “Out of all the pilots in Mississippi, it’s great to be recognized. We have to get re-designation and re-certification every year at our annual convention and that’s when I found out I had won. It was in January and I had no idea that I would get the award until my name was called out!” he laughed.
A board of five with the MAAA vote for the honoree and a certificate is presented to the pilot at the awards ceremony.
Hendrix, a Leland native who moved to Cleveland in 2011, has been a pilot since 2010 when he was a junior in high school. He received his instrument rating at Delta State but got his pilot’s license from a private instructor.
Currently, Hendrix is an ag pilot who flies for Christmas Flying Service based in Shelby where he has worked since 2019.
“All of us who do this for a living have to fly almost every day, weather permitting,” he said. “It takes a lot to get into this field, so to be recognized in this way is really gratifying.”
Eli Herbison won the “Pilot Of The Year” Award in 2020. The Cleveland resident, who grew up in Shaw, received his pilot’s license in 2001 in Olive Branch is an ag pilot for Bo Air in Shaw. He’s worked for the company for 14 years and said he flies seven days a week.
“We didn’t have our convention the year I won due to Covid in 2020,” said Herbison. “So, we held a combination event in 2022 on the Coast and that’s when I officially received my award. It was totally unexpected, but it felt great to win. To have the committee members take notice of your good work is special.
Darryll McCreary, who won “Pilot Of The Year” for 2021, flies for Planters Air Service out of Alligator. He’s been with the company since 2012 and, as with his two peers, said he was thrilled to win the award. A graduate of the Flying Tiger school in Louisiana, McCready said he loves to fly.
“My dad was an ag pilot for 37 years so it’s kind of in my blood,” said McCreary. “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing,” he added, talking while actually flying on a job. “And, just like Eli and Elliot, I was honored to be given this award for doing what I love to do.”