How to Become A Bush Pilot? For Complete Beginners

If you prefer a more challenging flying experience than just flying people and don’t mind low pay, then bush pilot might be the best career path for you. The field involves flying in abnormal, off-airport conditions that normal pilots would consider dangerous or impossible. Think landing on lakes, frozen lakes in winter, and gravel bars or riverbanks.

The process of becoming a bush pilot isn’t a walk in the park. You have to spend hours practicing until your flying skills to remote locations with no control become top-notch. But the whole process is manageable if you know what is expected of you in advance.

In this guide, we’ll take you through the process of becoming a bush pilot. You’ll discover the full requirements to become a bush pilot, joining an ideal flight school, finding a job as a bush pilot, the expected salary, and so much more.

How to become a bush pilot:

How to become a bush pilot

Step 1. Meet the set requirements for a bush pilot.

Before you can even start thinking of looking for a bush pilot training flight school, you should make sure you met the FAA minimum requirements for a bush pilot. You need to get a private pilot license (PPL), followed by a commercial pilot license (CPL).

a bush pilot

If you plan to ferry passengers, you’ll also need to obtain an air traffic pilot’s license (ATPL). You can choose to do this course full-time (this will take around 1 year) or part-time (for about 5 years). You’ll need to pay around $10,000 to $50,000 for this course depending on how intensive the course is. You can lower this cost by looking for a more affordable airplane and instructor to rent.

Following are the minimum qualifications as set by Federal Aviation Authority (FAA):

  • You must be at least 18 years old
  • You must be fluent English language, both written and spoken
  • You must have earned a Private Pilot License (PPL) or higher from FAA
  • You must have logged at least 250 flight hours
  • You must have your logbook endorsed by a certified flight instructor (CFI) to confirm the above ratings and experience
  • You must pass all the theoretical and practical tests to get a commercial license. (NOTE: Most commercial pilot flight schools usually offer a program that enables you to earn this certificate and meet this requirement).

Step 2. Join a bush pilot training school

If you meet all the requirements mentioned above and you have your commercial pilot license at hand, the path to becoming a bush pilot is now set clear for you.

You’ll just need to look for a flight school that trains pilots to become bush pilots. Unlike in the other flight programs, this specific training will require you to fly planes with tundra wheels, floats, and skis.

You’ll also become well equipped to fly in abnormal conditions like landing on frozen lakes in the winter, flying in remote Alaskan villages, missionary camps in rain forests, to name but a few.

Many flight schools are offering a bush pilot training program, so finding one that suits your preferences will be easy for you, depending on the type of training you sign up for, type of aircraft, type of work you’ll be handling, and type of environment you’ll be flying in

You can get commercial bush pilot training in flight training facilities that offer instruction in float, tundra tire, tailwheel, or ski and glacier operations. These facilities are available in various locations around North America.

If you’re a US pilot and get trained and certified in Canada, you’ll get the FAA approval from the FLVC (Foreign License Validation Certificate).

There are also many colleges and universities offering ab initio mission-aviation programs. Since these programs can cost you quite high, the schools are looking into a forgivable loan assistance program to write part of your loan for each year you fly overseas.

Step 3. Get your funding right

When you enroll at your school of choice, you’ll need to pay for the training. Luckily, for you training to become a bush pilot doesn’t that cost you a lot depending on the type of program you’re enrolling in and how long you’ll be training.

For instance, if you sign up for Glacier landing and ski plane, you can expect the training course to last you for an average of 5 hours. This will cost you roughly $1800 plus it will include two night’s lodging.

If you’re undertaking a seaplane refresher course, you’ll be paying $180 per hour.

Bush and mountain flying course will involve up to 5 hours flight and 5 hours ground training. The total cost here would be approx. $1400 in addition to two nights lodging fee.

a bush pilot training

The advanced bush pilot certificate takes a bit longer—up to 5 days and includes 5-7 hours of ground training plus 5-7 hours of flight training. This course takes longer because it’s more extensive and covers river landings, mountain flying, and high-altitude lakes. The training will challenge you while advancing your bush piloting skills.

Step 4. Start the training

Once you have enrolled in your program of choice, all that’s remaining of you is going through the learning cave. The good thing about training to become a bush pilot is that it doesn’t take long. It’s a pretty short affair and you’ll be done in a matter of hours or days.

At the end of the training, you should come out as a fully-groomed bush pilot who can easily and safely fly in off-airport conditions that other pilots might deem too dangerous or impossible.

Start the training

You’ll learn precision flying such that you could confidently fly into confined spaces and come out safely.

Step 5. Looking for a job as a bush pilot

When you finally get your bush pilot license, you can now start looking for jobs.

As with any other career, you’ll start with entry-level jobs. This means doing a lot of unloading and unloading of aircrafts.

Having additional practical skills on top of your bush pilot training can increase your employment score as a bush pilot. For instance, if you can do plumbing, computer programming, or any other skill that can contribute to working in remote locations, your resume will attract a job much easier.

Looking for a job as a bush pilot

Mind you, missionary aviation organizations offering you a job tend to take you through a 10-day technical evaluation to assess your mechanical and piloting skills as well as your attitude.

This means you won’t be flying the aircraft only but you’ll also be working for the greater good of the mission. Once they accept you for the job, they’ll take you through an orientation program to polish your skills before you get posted overseas.

How much does a bush pilot make?

There’s no fixed figure for bush pilot salary. How much you earn highly depends on the company, the job, and even the degree of risk you’ll taking when flying.

For a beginner bush pilot, you can expect to earn a starting salary of about $2500 a month. Seasoned bush pilots who operate larger planes can earn more—between $6,000 to $8,000 a month.

How much does a bush pilot make

Missionary bush pilots usually earn around$4000 to $6000 a month. Pilots under this category fund their own salary and expenses, meaning they get their pay through self-sponsored donor networks.

Do bush pilots own their own planes?

Bush pilots usually own their own aircraft and decide what kind of work they get into. This makes the basis of one of the benefits of becoming a bush pilot—you become your own boss.

The MOST important step to becoming a competent bush pilot is buying an airplane that’s capable of handling the terrain you’ll be flying in.

However, not all bush pilots work independently. Some choose to liaise with larger companies to help them ferry people as well as goods to remote locations.

bush pilots

Others may choose to work with fire departments as spotters, where they search remote areas and risky terrains for the possibility of fire outbreaks.

Some may even choose to work with government-run drug prevention organizations to look out for any growing sites for prohibited drugs like marijuana.

You can opt to do these jobs full-time or add them to your independent work.

What jobs can you do as a bush pilot?

To understand what jobs you’ll be doing as a bush pilot, we can categorize this field of work into two main groups: missionary bush pilot and commercial bush pilot.

As a missionary pilot, your work will revolve around faith-based objects, e.g. helping isolated people in remote areas. You’ll be operating under duty limits and you’ll get hours and days off.

You’ll get to serve an assigned location for up to 4 years after which you get a year off. You can then go back to the same place after the break or you can move to another location to work for another 4 years.

What jobs can you do as a bush pilot

If you work as a commercial pilot, your job will revolve around camps. For instance, you’ll be flying supplies and people to remote locations. This job category may also involve tourism, resource industries, or public agencies.

No matter what job category you get into as a bush pilot, you should expect to be away from your home for extended periods of time. You should also expect to live in diverse accommodation types like sleeping in the back of your airplane or in hotels.

Final Verdict

That’s everything you need to know about how to become a bush pilot. If you dream to fly in the remote villages of Alaska, Canada, or simply fly in off-airfield conditions, becoming a bush pilot should be your ultimate goal.

We have just discussed everything you need to know about how to become a bush pilot, from the requirements to choosing a flight school, funding your specific training program, and looking for a job, and how much you should expect to work when you start working as a bush pilot.

With all this helpful information, we believe you’re now fully prepared to become a bush pilot.

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