When they were kids, J.P and David Freppon had dreams of what they would be when they grew up. Someday, they would become pilots. Now, when they fire up their planes at Freppon Flying Service in Bald Knob, those dreams come true over and over again.
The brothers grew up working with their father on their farm outside of Bald Knob.
“My dad was farming with my grandparents
ever since I can remember,” J.P. said. “He got me on a tractor when I was 6. He would check me out of school some days to get me to come help on the farm.”
His father had a pilot’s license and would take his sons flying when they were children.
“I thought it was the neatest thing,” J.P. said. “We didn’t have a plane then. We’d rent one from the Searcy airport, and my dad would take us up after church on Sundays a lot of times. We were just pawing at the ground to get out of church.”
When he helped his father out on the farm, he also found himself interested in the pilots who would fly over their farm and spray fertilizer or pesticides on the crops.
“When we were younger, you had to get out in the field and wave a flag, and the plane would fly over you,” he said. “I enjoyed farming, and I really liked flying, so I just kind of put them together.”
After high school, J.P. went to school in Bainbridge, Ga., to become an ag pilot.
“It only took three months to get my license,” he said. “You can’t really teach someone how to fly. You just kind of learn on your own. You have to experience it.”
J.P., who started flying when he was 19 years old, said there aren’t a lot of young people who become ag pilots, so it’s hard to build up a clientele.
“My family helped me buy a plane, and they were my first customers,” J.P. said. “It’s kind of hard to trust a guy who is 19 and had never cropdusted before. Someone’s not going to hire you right off.”
His family has been supportive of his career choice. J.P.’s busy season runs from June 1 through about Aug. 1.
“On a typical day, I get up at 4 a.m. and check the weather. I have to get ready and try to be in the air by 5:30 when the sun comes up. I spray until about 10 to 11 o’clock when the wind starts blowing; then I switch over and do dry fertilizer,” J.P. said. “Hopefully, I have enough work to work until dark — about 8:30 or 9 o’clock.”
David, J.P’s brother, flew planes for ExpressJet Airlines before coming back to Bald Knob to work on the farm full time.
“I flew anywhere in the continental U.S., 32 cities in Mexico, eight cities in Canada and in Nassau,” he said.
David still flies when he can, but it’s primarily J.P. who does the flying for the farm.
“I really just meet the needs of the day,” David said. “Sometimes I’m the tractor driver; sometimes I’m taking our mom or dad to the doctor. [J.P. and I] split the marketing of the crops.”
Their childhood dreams of becoming pilots now a reality, the brothers are passing such dreams on to younger generations. David said that during the school year, he and J.P. take students from the Searcy School District for plane rides at the Searcy Municipal Airport to let them experience flight for the first time.