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The Wrong Reasons for Becoming an Airborne Sensor Operator (ASO)

Here are six bad reasons to become an ASO:

For the $ - If you’re looking to make the “Big Bucks!” you’re going to be disappointed. On average and across the different industry sectors (Commercial, Public Safety, Defense), sensor operators are paid hourly in smaller firms and a salary in larger organizations. Benefits are rare but usually offered at the larger agencies or companies. Average pay is $20 to $30 an hour, and the average salary for airborne sensor operator jobs is $41,000 to $54,000. However, the average airborne sensor operator hourly wages or salaries can vary greatly due to company, location, industry, experience, and benefits.

For the Reputation – If you’re looking for a profession that everyone from your mother to your kids’ soccer coach knows, go to medical or law school. The only people who will know what you do for a living is your fellow ASOs and aircrew members. If you do decide to become an ASO, anticipate spending 30 min (per person who asks) explaining what you do for a living at your next neighborhood BBQ, even then you’ll leave them either bored or confused.

For the Tributes – If you’re looking to get the credit of being the primary person on the aircrew that makes or breaks the mission, join the “Me, Me Club.” The typical professional ASO is the “unsung invisible hero” who constantly applies his skills beyond odds and gets patent answers of “Thanks!” The real praises come from “You” who knows what is required, how to get it done, and what it means to others!

For the Awesome Schedule – If you’re looking for a routine 9 to 5 Monday through Friday job routine, join the slug commutator world! The nature of this profession is flexibility, on-call and sustaining short, hectic periods of running collection operations and processing data – End!

For the Deluxe Travel – If you’re looking to see the world from the window of a 5-Star hotel or business class airline seat, “Getty-up” an marry into a rich family or play lotto. The average ASO travels via economy class or lives in field encampment conditions. Because of small profit margins of data collection projects, transportation and life-support requirements become a target of scaling, i.e., bare-base.

For the Simplicity – If you’re looking to put “Widget-A into Widget-B” without dealing with technical complications or are not willing to go outside your comfort-zone, become a hermit! ASO’s are the opposite of non-op-tech-thinkers. ASOs are both “cause & effect” thinkers and “tinkers” or “MacGyvers” of technology and data collection & processing! But if you love flying, working with complex systems, seeing the world outside of an office and finding a needle in a hay stack, Then Go for It!

This post is not meant to discourage people from becoming ASOs, just to make it clear that if you're in it for the money, recognition or the 9 to 5 lifestyle, you're in it for the wrong reason! If you truly enjoy combining flying, operating sensors, finding unknows and down-to-earth adventures, there's not a better job on this earth!


ASOG Desk Editor (Patrick)

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The Desk Editor at ASOG is dedicated to manage and delegate the coverage of news items, broadcast, or online media to inform, educate and empower ASOG members.

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  • Hi Georg,

    Thank you. Ref the posts, I think Mark's article is better. You just gave me an idea, I should build a tab for catogrized/subject articles everyone provides, i.e., like yours "Your ISR mission aircraft is only as good as your ISR Operator


  • Hi Patrick:

    Love it.  Love it as much as the earlier write-up that gives good reasons to become an Airborne Sensor Operator.  Like very profession, the best people in it are the ones who look forward every morning to doing their job.  These two write ups should be mandatory reading in every operator training class....  Keep up the great job!!


  • Truer words were never spoken......

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