How To Become A Bush Pilot

How to become a bush pilot flying in remote areas and rough terrain

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If you have ever wondered how to become a bush pilot then this post will give you some pointers. Bush pilots are responsible for flying into and out of remote areas, often transporting cargo or passengers. They are pilots skilled in STOL operating in and out of short strips. They fly airplanes equipped with floats, tundra wheels, and skis.

This type of aviation occurs all over the world. Bush pilots fly in places like Canada, Alaska, Central & South America, Africa, South East Asia, and Australasia.

To become a bush pilot, you’ll need to have a commercial pilots license and a lot of additional training and experience. Aspiring bush pilots need to learn precision flying. You’ll also need to be comfortable with long periods of solitude, as such pilots often fly for hours at a time without seeing another person.

The training that the aspirant bush pilot will need will depend on the terrain in which he or she intends to operate. You may need to train with several flight schools to complete all the required training for flying in remote locations.

What is a bush pilot and what do they do

A bush pilot is someone who flies aircraft in wilderness areas, often in support of resource extraction operations such as mining, forestry, and fishing. They may also fly tourists into wilderness areas and ferry passengers when overland travel is not possible.

Many bush pilots are freelance and work on a contract basis. Some work for larger companies that operate in remote locations.

Bush piloting typically involves flying smaller aircraft, such as single-engine planes and helicopters. They must be able to land on short airstrips and in other challenging locations. Consequently, the job has some additional risks that include rapidly changing weather and abnormal conditions.

Despite the risks, these pilots are essential to the operations of many businesses in remote areas. They provide a vital service that would otherwise be unavailable.

How to become a bush pilot

Bush pilots are a special breed of aviators. They must be skilled in flying in difficult conditions, and they must be able to think on their feet. They fly into areas that conventional pilots regard impossible, or at least too dangerous to risk.

The first thing you need is aviation experience. You should have a few thousand hours of flying time under your belt before you even think about becoming a bush pilot. This is not the type of flying you can do just after you’ve obtained a private pilots license.

You also need to have a good knowledge of survival skills. This is because if something goes wrong when you’re flying over a wilderness area, you may not be able to get help right away. You need to be able to build a fire, purify water, and find food in the wild.

Lastly, you need to have a good mental attitude. A bush pilot must be able to deal with stressful situations and they must be able to stay calm under pressure. Conventional flying involves a higher degree of predictability. There is near-constant radio contact and plenty of opportunities for forced landings. Bush flying on the other hand can be the exact opposite and therefore a bush pilot needs to be resilient and self-reliant.

The skills and experience you need to be a bush pilot

So what skills and experience do you need to be a bush pilot? Well, you need to be able to fly a plane, but you also need to be familiar with the terrain and weather conditions in the area where you’ll be flying. You need to be able to navigate your way through dense forests and over rugged mountains, and you need to be able to land on short airstrips.

To prepare for bush flying you’ll need to devise a training program that will meet your specific requirements and for most this will include some time that will cover mountain flying. Your advanced bush pilot course is likely to include several on this list:

  • Tailwheel conversion
  • Mountain flying
  • Sea plane rating or sea plane refresher course
  • Ski plane experience
  • River landings e.g. on gravel bars
  • Landing on frozen lakes
  • Glacier landing training
  • STOL flying with unconventional types e.g. tundra tires
  • Survival skills
  • Organisational skills
  • Basic mechanics & maintenance

You need to have a good knowledge of survival skills. If you’re forced to land miles away from the nearest help you’ll need to be able to build a fire, purify water, and find food in the wild. You will also need to know how to protect yourself and your passengers from predatory animals e.g. bears.

Lastly, you need to have a good attitude. Bush pilots must be able to deal with stressful situations and they must be able to stay calm under pressure. If you’re not sure if you have what it takes to prepare for bush flying, many flight schools offer training.

Why people become bush pilots

Bush pilots are an important part of the aviation community. They provide essential services to people and businesses in areas that are not easily accessible by other means of transportation.

There are many reasons why people become bush pilots. For some, it’s because they love flying and want to experience new places and cultures. Others want to help people in need, such as during natural disasters. Still, others become bush pilots because they want to start their own business or transportation service. Whatever the reason, bush pilots play an important role in the aviation community.

De Havilland Beaver
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

There are a few things that all bush pilots have in common. They are all passionate about flying, and they all have a strong desire to help others. They also have a high level of skill and experience. Most bush pilots have years of flying experience, and many have flown in some of the most remote and challenging areas of the world.

Where to start

If you’re wondering what to do after you’ve obtained a private pilots license then bush flying is one option, even if you don’t intend to do so commercially. You’re going to need at least a PPL, a tailwheel rating, and a lot of PIC time in your logbook. On the other hand, you may want to obtain a commerical pilots license first if you intend to fly professionally as a bush pilot. Find yourself a certified instructor at a qualified flight school who can teach you the basics of flying into (and out of!) a remote area and how to make quick decisions in abnormal conditions.

Yyou’ll need a flight school that will teach you some of the above mentioned ratings and gain some flight experience in off airport conditions. Log hours on floats and several aircraft types. If you can do all that then you’ll be ready to apply for an entry level position or at least fly confidently into a remote location for your own enjoyment.

African Bush Pilot Jobs

If you’re looking for an exciting, unconventional work experience, becoming a bush pilot in Africa might be the perfect job. African bush pilots are responsible for flying over some of the most remote and untouched wilderness areas, providing cargo and recreational air service to those who may not know what lies beyond the horizon.

Many of these jobs require navigating extremely hot climates in the more southern parts of Africa – something many more experienced pilots from colder climates find quite challenging. But across rural villages, mountain passes and dense jungles, bush pilots help connect people by flying them to their destinations safely and dependably. It’s an incredible experience that few others get a chance to do, only possible due to the adventurous spirit of Africa’s bush pilots!

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