How do I Become a Bush Pilot?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 March 2020
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A bush pilot is a certified aviator that works in extremely remote locations, like the outback of Australia or the wilderness of Canada and Alaska. Highly skilled professionals, bush pilots are the ultimate adventurers, prepared to handle any emergency from spotting forest fires to warding off wildlife. Becoming a bush pilot requires extensive training and multiple certifications. Though different regions may have different licensing requirements, expect to spend several years training to become a bush pilot regardless of location.

The first step on the road to become a bush pilot is to obtain a basic private pilot license (PPL). This can be achieved through taking a training program at a certified flight school and passing several intensive tests. Following this first section of training, a pilot will need a commercial pilot license (CPL) in order to offer business services, crucial for anyone who wants to become a professional bush pilot.

For those who wish to be able to transport passengers, and additional level of certification is also required. This license is called the air traffic pilot license or ATPL. Though training requirements for these programs may vary regionally, most areas have relatively similar programs and tests required for certification. Some of the things learned while in training include plane maintenance, flying, basic medical training, air traffic protocols, and safety training. Students must show aptitude in both written and practical tests before being granted any of the licenses.


Some specialized training is required to become a bush pilot. Since bush pilots work in rugged areas where landing strips may be non-existent, they often use planes that can take off or land in water or on snow. Most bush pilots must be comfortable in dangerous flying areas such as mountain ranges, and be prepared to handle safety emergencies a long way from supplies or airstrips. Many flight schools offer additional training courses that may help a person become a bush pilot.

One of the advantages for a person who wants to become a bush pilot is the ability to be his or her own boss. Bush pilots often own their own planes and choose their own work. While it may not pay as much as commercial piloting, bush piloting is ideal for adventure junkies that want to be independent and live the romantic life of a wilderness adventurer. One major step on the road to become a bush pilot may be to buy a plane that is capable of handling the terrain in the area.

Once certified, not all bush pilots work independently. Some liaise with larger companies to ferry passengers and goods to remote locations. Others may work with fire departments as spotters, searching remote and dangerous terrain for outbreaks of fire. A bush pilot may even work with government-run drug prevention organizations to spot growing sites of illegal drugs such as marijuana. These jobs may be done full time or may be in addition to a pilot's independent work.


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