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There are many different kinds of pilots out there, each with different requirements. Learn how to become a bush pilot in this complete guide.

A bush pilot is very different from any other type of pilot. Even though you will mainly be flying smaller aircraft as you would as a normal private pilot, the conditions you'll be flying in and the places you’ll be flying to are far from the same. So it takes a bit of specialized training to become a bush pilot. How is it done?

To become a bush pilot, you should start by doing everything necessary to become a commercial pilot and obtain your instrument rating. Once you have your Commercial Pilot Certificate, you should gain experience with low-level flight and mountainous terrain for flying in remote areas.

Do you dream of flying through the sky, dodging mountains, and exploring the wilderness? If so, becoming a bush pilot might be right for you! Bush pilots are a special breed of pilots who fly small planes in some of the most remote areas on Earth. So how do you become a bush pilot? In this article, we will provide a complete guide on how to make your dream a reality!

SkyTough has become one of the premier aviation sites on the web because we focus on providing engaging content that’s both helpful and accurate. With every topic we write about, we research it and speak to other pilots and enthusiasts that have experience with it. For a topic like this one, checking out forums, what companies are looking for, and input from actual bush pilots gives us the most comprehensive answers possible.

Table of contents


What is a Bush Pilot?

I know, you're here to learn how to become a bush pilot. And we'll get into the details of everything it takes to do so shortly. But first, let's talk about what bush pilots even are in the first place. After all, knowing what a bush pilot really is could be the difference between wanting to decide to actually become one or deciding to venture towards the skies in a different way.

So what is a bush pilot?

A bush pilot is defined as a pilot who flies light aircraft to remote areas. Bush pilots are often the only form of transportation in and out of these areas. They play an important role in providing supplies and services to people who live in rural or remote areas. As you might expect from that description, becoming a bush pilot requires a lot of skill, training, and experience. It's not a job for everyone, but if you're up for the challenge, it can be an incredibly rewarding career!

That might seem like a bit of a short description, but we have a full article that answers this question in much more detail that you can check out here. So I just wanted to touch on the high points in this one, but make sure to check that out for more details about bush pilots. Now that you have an idea of what a bush pilot is, you might be thinking about what kind of planes they fly.

What Kinds of Planes Do Bush Pilots Fly?

This may seem like a strange answer to that question, but bush pilots fly aircraft known as bush planes. So what are bush planes? Bush planes are defined as rugged, all-purpose aircraft that can take off and land in short distances on rough airstrips. They are typically equipped with large tires, powerful engines, and STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) capabilities.

Many bush pilots fly floatplanes, which are airplanes that have pontoons attached to their fuselage or floats instead of wheels. This allows them to take off and land on water. Floatplanes are often used in areas where there are no airstrips or landing strips available. Similarly, bush pilots might fly repurposed seaplanes, which are actually something entirely different from floatplanes even though many people think they're the same thing!

Some popular bush planes include modified versions of planes such as the de Havilland Beaver, the Cessna 206, and the Piper PA-18 Super Cub. These planes are all well-suited for flying in remote areas with limited infrastructure. Of course, there are many other bush planes out there and the one you fly will depend on your specific needs as a pilot. But those are just a few of the most popular ones that you'll see in action!

For more information on what modifications bush planes need and what really makes a bush plane a bush plane, check out our full article on bush planes here. In that article, you'll learn everything there is to know about bush planes in much greater detail than here.

Now it's time to get into what you're really here for how to become a bush pilot.

How Do You Become a Bush Pilot?

It's time to get into the good stuff. Keep in mind as you're reading through this section that many companies and organizations that hire bush pilots will have their own requirements. This is mainly because, unlike obtaining your Private Pilot License or Commercial Pilot Certificate, there is no such thing for bush pilots specifically. I mean, there is no "Bush Pilot Certificate/License" or anything like that.

So while I won't be able to go over the exact requirements and qualifications that you might need to get hired as a bush pilot at every company out there, we can look at what's generally needed and discuss the steps along the way. So if your dream is to become a bush pilot and fly to the most remote areas in the world, this is what you'll need to do.

The best way to take care of many of the requirements in becoming a bush pilot is to first set your sights on becoming a commercial pilot. This is because the skills and qualifications that you'll need to become a commercial pilot will also come in handy as a bush pilot. In fact, just about every bush pilot out there starts by obtaining their commercial pilot certificate.

There are a few reasons for this. For one, you'll need your commercial pilot certificate to fly passengers for compensation or hire. This is important because as a bush pilot, you'll often be flying passengers to remote locations. And while you might not always be getting paid for it, there will likely be times when you are. So it's important to have that commercial certificate in your pocket just in case.

Not only that, but the training and experience that you'll receive by becoming a commercial pilot will also be invaluable when flying as a bush pilot. This is because you'll learn essential skills such as how to fly in adverse weather conditions, how to navigate using only visual references, and more. These are all skills that you'll need to have as a bush pilot since you'll often be flying in areas with limited infrastructure and resources.

Along the way, you should also obtain your instrument rating. This is not required to become a bush pilot in every scenario, but it's highly recommended. The reason for this is that when you're flying in remote areas, there are often times when you'll need to fly in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). This simply means that you'll be flying in conditions where visibility is limited and you might not be able to see using just visual references.

You should also consider gaining experience in low-level flight (lower than 500 feet above ground level) because of the rough terrain you'll be flying in as a bush pilot. You might also even want to get experience flying in mountainous terrain for the same reasons. Consequently, these same things will be required for anyone interested in becoming an aerial firefighter, which you can read about in our article on the topic published recently!

Lastly, you'll want to make sure you have at least 500 hours of flight time in the type of aircraft you'll be flying and that you have your endorsement or rating for that aircraft. This will make it much easier to find a job as a bush pilot since most companies will want to see that you have experience flying the specific type of aircraft they operate.

So those are the basics of what you'll need to do to become a bush pilot! Just remember that the best way to become a bush pilot is first to get your commercial pilot certificate and then gain as much experience flying in various conditions as possible.

How Much Money Do Bush Pilots Make?

Now that you know what bush pilots are and how to become one, you're probably wondering how much money they make. Bush pilots can typically make a pretty good salary. In fact, the average bush pilot salary here in the United States is around $75,000 to $105,000. Within this career, the median salary is just over $82,000, which is significantly higher than the median income in the country, without a doubt!

Keep in mind that these are just averages and medians. So, of course, you can make more or less depending on your own individual circumstances. For instance, if you're a bush pilot in Alaska then you can expect to make more money than someone who is a bush pilot in Florida. It all just depends on where you live and work as a bush pilot.