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Becoming a pilot opens the doors to all sorts of unique opportunities depending on what type of pilot you want to be. But what is a bush pilot?

A bush pilot is a pilot that is trained to fly bush planes into remote areas that are inaccessible by other vehicles or means of travel. Bush pilots typically have at least 500 hours of flight time, a pilot’s license and instrument certificate, high-performance endorsement, and A&P licenses.

As a pilot or a prospective pilot, the world is your oyster. Literally. As a pilot, you will have the opportunity to potentially travel around the world; or fly to another city, state, or country on a whim. If you dig a little deeper and become a bush pilot, you can fly into some of the most remote places on the planet, where few others can make the journey to. But what exactly is a bush pilot? Consider this guide your number one resource on everything you need to know about bush pilots, from what they do to how to become one yourself!

While producing content is certainly important to us, our top priority is providing the best content we possibly can for our readers. That’s why we take the time to go through every article in detail and ensure that we’re only putting out the best, most accurate information on the web. That said, through the combination of our extensive experience and knowledge in aviation and the input from others in the field, we are confident you’ll learn everything you need to know about bush pilots as you continue reading!

Table of contents


What Is Bush Flying?

Before we get too far into the weeds (bush pun intended) on bush pilots and what they are, let’s start off by taking a quick look at what bush flying even is. In general, bush flying is the practice of flying into remote areas around the world that are typically undeveloped (or underdeveloped) in terms of terrain and general flight conditions.

The word bush typically refers to rough terrain that is not exactly conducive to standard flight, i.e. the wilderness and extremely remote areas. The ground is often entirely undeveloped and there are usually no runways, taxiways, or any actual airport to fly into. Landing and taking off in these conditions are some of the most difficult of any type of flying, so only trained pilots in certain planes should attempt to do so.

What Are Bush Planes?

Speaking of certain types of planes, what is a bush plane? For a much more in-depth idea of what bush planes are, we’ve written a full article on these incredible planes for you to check out. But let’s give you a quick rundown of what bush planes are so you have an idea of what bush pilots are actually flying and how they can fly into these unforgiving conditions.

Bush planes are planes that have been designed and modified to be able to land in remote areas with little to no typical things you’d find at an airport or landing strip. With high wings, big tires, strengthened undercarriage, and more, bush planes are capable of going places that no other planes can go. These planes are able to fly into areas with rough terrain that would otherwise be totally inaccessible by other means of travel.

So as you can imagine, bush planes require specialized pilots to safely operate and fly them.

How Do You Become A Bush Pilot?

Becoming a bush pilot is a long process, but it is a rewarding one if you’re wanting to become the best all-around pilot that you can be. The process of becoming a bush pilot will differ slightly depending on if you’re going to be flying commercial cargo or passengers or if you just want to learn how to fly your own bush plane, but the general steps will be roughly the same.

Let’s take a look at everything a pilot needs to do to become a bush pilot:

  • Bush pilots are required to be a licensed pilot of some sort, whether that’s commercial or private. This again depends on what type of bush flying you’ll be doing. Most commonly, bush pilots begin their careers as commercial pilots and therefore have a commercial pilot’s license to their name.
  • Regardless of the type of pilot’s license, a bush pilot almost always needs to have an instrument pilot’s certificate. Flying into these remote areas, it’s almost impossible to rely on Visual Flight Rules, so a bush pilot will need to be able to fly purely by the airplane’s instrumentation to make it there. That said, they need to be apt at visual flight as well, since landing in these areas requires the pilot to see where they’re heading and find the best spots to touch down.
  • Bush pilots typically have to have a high-performance endorsement on their pilot’s license if they’re planning on flying commercially. This endorsement ensures that the pilot has gone through the necessary training for high-stress situations and can handle things that come up unexpectedly.
  • Sometimes, bush pilots will be required to have their A&P licenses, which ensures that they are certified in aviation maintenance. This is important due to the nature of bush flying. A pilot might have an issue in an extremely remote area, so they need to be able to fix the plane themselves to get airborne again.
  • A bush pilot will typically need to have at least 500 hours of flight time before they’re certified to go out on their own and ferry in passengers or cargo to these remote areas. This experience ensures that they will be able to make the flight and land in less than ideal conditions without putting everyone and everything at risk.

As you can see, becoming a bush pilot is no easy feat. But if you embark on this journey, you’ll pick up a handful of licenses and certificates along the way that will make you an amazing pilot in just about any facet!

How Much Does A Bush Pilot Make?

While the allure of flying into uncharted territory and some of the world’s most remote areas might be enough to draw some people into the art of bush flying, it’s important to take a look at what you can expect to make as a bush pilot. After all, many people become pilots in the first place for the high-paying, well-respected career.

So how much do pilots make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average median salary for a bush pilot is around $85,000. Keep in mind that this is just the median, with some bush pilots making well into the six figures, and some making less. Depending on what number you were expecting to see, this $85,000 salary might seem high or low.

For reference, according to the BLSt the average median salary for a commercial airline pilot is $93,000. As you might know, pilots can make way, way more than that depending on length of service and rank. Also, keep in mind that most bush pilots start their career as commercial pilots, so you’ll likely have some high-earning years along the way before you settle down into a bush plane.

In any case, being a pilot — commercial, private, or bush — is a great career that will earn you well above the national average salary here in the US.

Can Bush Pilots Fly Other Types Of Planes?

As you read above, bush pilots usually require a commercial or private pilot’s license. In most cases, bush pilots fly these planes commercially and therefore will be required to have a commercial license. That said, commercial pilots are also typically capable of flying most smaller aircraft that a pilot with a private license would be able to fly.

Basically, all that is to say that bush pilots are typically more experienced and have even more overall training than most other pilots out there. Through their experience and training as a commercial pilot, bush pilots could potentially fly most airplanes out there, from small single-engine aircraft to potentially full-size commercial airliners, depending on which commercial certificates they have.

So while bush pilots can almost certainly fly other types of planes, it does not work going the other way. A standard commercial or private pilot could theoretically fly a bush plane, but you wouldn’t want to be along for the ride during takeoff and landing. That’s where the expertise and training of the bush pilot really shines. So other pilots typically won’t be able to fly a bush plane safely or effectively.

If you want to be an all-around great pilot that’s capable of flying just about any plane (besides a fighter jet!), then aiming to become a bush pilot wouldn’t be a bad idea!