James A. Miller


Mr. Miller has over 42 years of flight experience logging in more than 26,000 hours in the air; over 15,000 hours rotary wing and over 11,000 hours fixed wing. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1968, serving as a Munitions System Specialist for one tour in Vietnam from Thanksgiving 1969 to Thanksgiving 1970. Jim served in the Air Force until 1972, and served in the reserves until 1974. While in the reserves in Sacramento he obtained his pilot license and met his wife of 42 years, Carol. Miller separated from the Air Force in 1974 with the rank of Staff Sergeant.

Mr. Miller’s extensive helicopter and airplane flight experience includes:

  • Piper Cub
  • Stearman 220
  • Stearman 450HP
  • Grumman Ag Cat 450, 600, and Turbine
  • Thrush 600, 1820, and Turbine
  • Pawnee Brave
  • Dromader
  • Murray Air (a modified “built up” Stearman)
  • Hughes 269
  • Hiller E Model
  • Hiller Soloy
  • Bell UH1-B “Huey”
  • Bell UH1-H “Huey”
  • Airtractor 802

Jim’s career has taken him to Mississippi where he obtained his airplane Ag Pilot License, and Arizona where all his flying was during the night time due to extreme heat, in cotton spraying operations. He settled in California in 1980 where he was hired to fly helicopters by Pingrey Aviation, in Arbuckle California. Miller was rated in the Hughes 269, but on his first day the owner took him flying in a Hiller E model and told Jim to “come back in the morning and I’ll show you how to land on the truck” (meaning the nurse truck used to refill fuel and spray liquids during jobs in the fields). Jim showed up in the morning and his boss took him up, landed on the nurse truck, handed off the controls to Jim and got out of the helicopter. He came back a minute later with a set of golf clubs over his shoulder and shouted up to Jim “keep the RPM’s up!” and walked away.

In 1990 Jim Miller decided to go into business for himself and purchased Pingrey Aviation and renamed the business Pacific Valley Aviation, Inc. Currently Mr Miller is still flying full time alongside his son Darren, running two UH1-H “Huey” helicopters, an 802 Airtractor, and a 610 Thrush. Most of their spraying operations with the Hueys are performed during the night to protect honey bee populations, which are critical to pollinizing crops.

Pacific Valley Aviation operations include:

  • Seeding and spraying rice crops
  • Spraying almonds, walnuts, pecans and other crops
  • White-washing nut crops to protect them during extreme heat
  • Frost control of nut orchard crops
  • Cherry drying

Miller’s operations include the use of nurse trucks which effectively brings the air strip to the helicopters; designed and customized to have all of the central items a helicopter applicator needs for the job, including fuel, tools, a chemical storage box, a water tank, and a landing pad on top. When spraying with the Hueys at night Jim and Darren land atop these trucks about every seven or eight minutes to refill their spray tanks.

Big fields, big running, the airplane excels. In small fields with a lot of obstacles and congested areas, the helicopters are amazingly efficient at getting into corners and smaller pieces of property that a fixed wing can’t effectively get in with a swath. Helicopters can go in and get the job done; as Jim is fond of saying, “you fly an airplane, but you wear a helicopter”… Jim wears his helicopters very well indeed.

When he is not working, Jim takes time out for wherever the next adventure, or his wife Carol, may take him. He enjoys flying his vintage Piper Cub and he is very active in Veteran Organizations, giving back and volunteering wherever he is needed.

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