Bush pilots fly to remote areas across the globe where there is little operational support.
According to bus pilots Keith Saulnier and Glen Ferguson, survival and success in this career required remarkable flying skills, resourcefulness and self-reliance, and most of all, the right attitude.
Missionary aviation and commercial aviation are the two bush pilot career paths represented by Glen and Keith. Glen is the owner of a Georgian Bay Airways in Parry Sound, Ontario that provides a Career Bush Pilot Program. Keith is the CEO of the International Association of Missionary Aviation (IAMA) that has around 60 member organizations including colleges with mission-aviation programs and mission-aviation fellowships.
What aircraft are flown by Bush Pilots?
The commercial aircraft include Piper Cubs to Cessna Caravans (many have floats), and many vintage such as de Havilland Beavers and turbine and piston Otters. Tail draggers are also used in many flights. As the availability of avgas is declining Missionary flying is moving to turbine aircraft, says Ferguson. It includes Caravans, Pilatus PC-12 and Porters, and Quest Kodiacs. When airstrips are too short, helicopters are used.
What type of training and experience is required to become a bush pilot?
Missionary aviation requires a commercial and instrument pilot’s licenses, along with endorsement on high-performance and an A&P license. The pilot need to have a minimum of 500 hours of flying experience.
Enjoy this Bush Pilot Flying video:
The missionary aviation is using more of tricycle, heavier gear aircraft. Therefore, it is not mandatory to have tail wheel endorsement.
In the field of commercial operation, a CPL along with rating or an endorsement in the type you will be flying is required. One should have experience to fly in the area of their working.
Where training can be done?
Commercial bus pilot training can be done from flight training institutes that offer instructions in tail wheel, float, ski & glacier and tundra tire operations. US pilots who got trained and certified in Canada can get FAA approval under the Foreign License Validation Certificate (FLVC).
Ab initio mission aviation programs are offered by a number of universities and colleges. These programs are of high cost and schools are trying for a forgivable loan-assistance program wherein part of the loan for each year flying can be write off, Ferguson says.
Who Hires Bush Pilots?
One will have to start at the entry-level position. It is very rare that one will get to fly from the left seat straight away. In bush flying there is lot of loading and unloading involved.
Some practical skills will increase the chance of your employability. In case you are an electrician, a plumber, a wrench, or a computer programmer who can assist in posting content on social media or on a website, it will increase your chance of getting the job.
10 day technical-evaluation courses is conducted by mission-aviation organizations to find out the mechanical and piloting skills of an applicant, and the attitude. People who are only willing to fly the airplanes are least welcome here. They should look for bigger mission. Pilots who are accepted have to return for orientation and to improve their skills before they are sent overseas.
What does the Job Involve?
Missionary aviation support a wide range of faith-based missions which include helping isolated people at remote places. There are duty limits for pilots and A&P. They work on an assigned location for 4 years and take off for 1 year.
Most people return back to the same location or shift to some place else, and the same cycle repeats, said Ferguson. The work of commercial bush pilots involve a lot of camp working. They have to take people to remote places and haul supplies. Their work will support resource industries, tourism or public agencies. The work can be seasonal.
What is the earning of bush pilots?
Salary of commercial bush pilots differ considerably. It starts from $2,500 per month, whereas seasoned pilot who operate bigger equipment can earn $6,000 to $8,000 / month or may be more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistcs, average mean wage of nonscheduled operators commercial pilots is around $85,000. Missionary pilots fund their own salary and expenditures. It usually range from $4,000 to $6,000 / month, by means of self-developed donor networks.
What are the other benefits?
According to Ferguson, for him it is when I see changed lives. Saulnier states that it is absolute freedom. There is still romance in this part of aviation industry.
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