Bush Flying


A bush pilot is a pilot who is able to fly a light to medium aircraft safely in and out of environments considered dangerous or impossible to fly in due to rough and unimproved terrain. This type of flying was first introduced in Canada and Alaska where it was done for humanitarian efforts to reach communities in isolated areas.
A pilot has to be intensively trained at becoming a bush pilot. The fact that a normal pilot is trained at how to perform emergency landings and can do so even in a nearby paddock, does not qualify him / her as a bush pilot unless they have undergone bush flying training. Bush flying is common in many African countries such as South Africa and Kenya and is also common in the Australian Outback.Today bush flying has spread to many countries around the world and it is used for various reasons from humanitarian, to tourist scenic and hunting activities.

C172 Aircraft used in Bush Flying, Image Embedded from[http://www.start-flying.com] on 13 September 2010 C172 Taking-off, Video Embedded from[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K27-UPhnU-4] on 13 September 2010

Who can be trained as a bush pilot

Pilots who hold either an MPL(Multi-crew pilot licence), PPL(Private Pilot Licence), ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License) or Instructor License are allowed to train at becoming bush pilots1.

Types of aircraft used for bush flying

Bush flying is carried out in areas with rough terrain and thus the planes used are modified with floats, tundra-tires or skies depending on the type of areas the bush pilots want to operate in. The tundra tires make it easier for the pilot to take off and land in rough terrain as in bush flying it is common for the pilots to land and take off in areas that have never been used as runways by other bush pilots. Bush flying aircrafts also have their wings placed on top of the fuselage2, so as to ensure that there far above the ground where rocks and vegetative overgrowth could hinder the wings during landing. Various other modifications are made to the aircraft such as modifications to the landing gear and so forth.

Aircrafts used in Bush Flying

Some of the aircrafts used are;

  • Cessna T-41 (C172) or C182,
  • Cessna 180,
  • Cessna Caravan and 206/207
  • Piper Super Cub,
  • Pilatus Turbo Porter PC-6
  • Fairchild American Pilgrim 100 A and B,
  • Beech 18, C-45

There not always accommodating runways

Cessna Taking-off, Video Embedded from[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ37pa2bT_0] on 13 September 2010 Wild Take-off, Video Embedded from[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OgWfQoNaCZU&feature=player_embedded#!] on 13 September 2010

Cause of accidents in bush flying

The major cause of accidents in bush flying especially in Africa is flying VFR (Visual Flight Rules) into IMC (Instrument Meteorological conditions) also known as, Blind Flying". For a pilot who is used to flying using VFR, if they’re caught in a situation where they find themselves in clouds, if the pilot isn’t trained to fly in white-out conditions where visibility and contrast are reduced due to clouds, mist, and fog which causes the horizon to disappear, the pilot is left with no reference point to fly with. White-cloud makes it easy for pilots to quickly get disoriented and crash into terrain.
In Alaska where bush flying first began a major cause of aircraft accidents according to the 1995 NTSB Safety study that was carried out on, ‘The Aviation Safety in Alaska’, it was found that 85% of pilots admitted to flying VFR into IMC. The NTSB identified this as ,’bush syndrome’ and stated measures pilots should undertake to safe guard against this3.

Bush Flying in New Zealand

In New Zealand Air Charter Taupo (ACT) carries out bush flying for tourists interested in scenic viewing or for hunters who want to get into hunting spots. Some of the challenges that the pilots of ACT face are low cloud, high winds and short runways2.


1.Pocock, CC. (2009). Bush & Mountain Flying handbook (1st edition 2009). A comprehensive guide to bush flying and survival. http://www.bushair.co.za

2.Watson, M,.(2010). Bush pilot loses licence to fly hunters on to Maori-owned land. Retrieved, 31 August, 2010 from http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/national/4061827/Bush-pilot-loses-licence-to-fly-hunters-on-to-Maori-owned-land.

3. NTSB.(1995). Safety Study: Aviation Safety in Alaska. Safety Study. NTSB SS/95/03. Washington ,DC. www.ntsb.gov/Recs/letters/1995/A95_137.pdf

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Melanie AttanMelanie Attan

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