How to Become a Bush Pilot

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The notion of becoming a Bush Pilot is a somewhat romantic one, flying low over the plains of Africa in a bi-plane or over the ice lakes of Canada in a vintage aircraft.  Bush flying is not for the faint hearted and by no means easier than being an Airline Pilot, just very different. It should not been seen as a way of building hours pre airline but of becoming a professional seasoned Bush Pilot.

What is the Role of a Bush Pilot?

The main duties of a Bush Pilot are:

  • Fly to remote and inhospitable locations such as the Australian Outback, Africa, Alaska and Northern Canada
  • Land, take off and taxi on rough terrain, ice and water
  • Work with tundra tyres, floats and ski’s depending on aircraft type
  • Fly in abnormal conditions
  • Work in transportation, cargo or rescue operations

A Bush Pilot will be required to:

  • Have good co-ordination
  • Think quickly and make decisions
  • Be precise
  • Be safety conscious
  • Be confident
  • Have leadership skills and be disciplined and committed

Basic Requirements and Qualifications

To start out as a Bush Pilot, you need to be able to speak English and be a minimum of 18 years old with a good high school education including Maths and Physics. A Bachelors Degree in Aviation is useful but not essential. You will need to be able to pass an airman’s medical and hold a PPL (Private Pilot’s License) with 250 hours flying experience. Once the PPL has been achieved you need to work on the CPL (Commercial Pilot’s License) and if carrying passengers on flights, the ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot’s License). You can then go on to a school specialising in bush flying to hone your skills and gain experience of working in unusual environments.

Options for Training

There are a number of ways in which to approach your pilot training depending on the time and budget available. You may study at university for 3 or 4 years for a degree in aviation or aeronautics which also includes your ATPL.  An integrated 18 month course is another option, but is very expensive and is a full time residential course. This does however cover all practical and theoretical training and takes you from zero hours flying to frozen ATPL, requiring on the job flying experience. Modular training can work out better for many trainee pilots as you can learn in blocks by distance learning in your own time, this would include the PPL, ATPL and CPL as well as IR (Instrument Rating).

How to Apply

Bush Flying jobs are always in demand but can be hard to find unless you have experience. Possible routes include looking for work in transportation or cargo in remote or hostile areas or working for organisations such as the United Nations, Mission Aviation Fellowship or the Royal Flying Doctors in Australia.

Hours, Salary and Benefits

Hours and schedules are often not set and will be on a shift basis as well as having to cover standby periods.

Salary usually consists of basic plus flying pay plus allowances, but varies at each operator.


Minimum P.A.


Maximum P.A

New Bush Pilot

$20,000 USD


$45,000 USD

Experienced Bush Pilot

$70,000 USD


$110,000 USD

Benefits may include health, loss of license and life insurance as well as pension depending on the operator.

Other Information

As with all pilots, you will be tested on your aircraft knowledge and safety procedures every 6 months and complete a check ride once yearly. You will also have to repeat your medical every 6 months or yearly depending on age and condition.

Related Opportunities

If working for an operator with large aircraft types you may start out as a First Officer or even a ‘Rampie’ (aircraft loader/runner) and work up to the role of Captain. On smaller aircraft types, you will work independently and may also get involved with land surveys, aerial firefighting or search and rescue, so there is lots of potential. Working for a charity or organisation will offer more possibilities for travel to remote locations as well as being very rewarding work and is a great experience for those pilots seeking a new flying adventure.

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