Training of Bush Pilots

The risky aspect of bush flying is what attracts many pilots to it. It offers a change and a sense of adventure to their flying as the pilots constantly discover new routes and landing spots. However this risky and perilous lifestyles has lead to insurance companies refusing to offer life insurance to pilots especially in areas like Africa2, where Bush flying can be dangerous. Ensuring proper training is offered to these pilots especially in areas associated to Human Factors reduces accidents and incidents. This Wiki contribution will highlight on the problems faced especially in Africa with bush flying and the training that the pilots should receive to facilitate a safe flying environment.

Problems Bush Pilots Face in Africa

Depending on the country the bush pilot is operating in there different problems they are faced with. When you compare developed countries and third world countries like Africa the problems and risks of the bush pilot are more increased in Africa as the pilots in these countries operate in areas that are sparsely populated and hostile such as, bush, jungle, mountain and even deserts2. They face the following problems;

  • Lack of radio communication.
  • Insecurity on ground.
  • Shortage of refuelling and aircraft maintenance facilities.
  • Lack of weather information during flight.
  • Lack of ground information during flight.
  • Outdated flight charts2.

Training Offered to Bush Pilots

Pilots who are in training to be bush pilots have already undergone pilot training in the subject areas such as;

  • Radio Navigation.
  • Instrumentation.
  • Weight and Balance.
  • Meteorology.
  • Operational Procedures.
  • Principles of Flight.
  • Flight Planning and Monitoring.
  • Human Performance and Limitations.
  • Air law.
  • Aircraft General Knowledge.
  • Communications (IFR & VFR).
  • Performance.
  • General Navigation.

The additional training that they are given is an intensive 2 to 3 day course followed by 3 to 4 hrs flying on areas such as1;

Survival 1

  • Your taught how to survive when out in the remote area and how to make use of all the tools onboard your bush plane and the contents of the survival kit you should always have.
  • First aid and resuscitation is taught.
  • Ground navigation & signalling.

Technical Aircraft Mechanical skills such as1;

  • Basic engine fault repair and diagnostics.
  • Maintenance of aircraft such as; air filter cleaning and replacement, landing gear and tire repairs, propeller maintenance and repair, oil and filter replacement as well as airframe repairs.
  • Electrical and Avionic repairs and fault diagnostics.
  • Engine Management.
  • Hand starting the engine.
  • Fuel and refuelling as well as testing for water in the fuel.

All this skill are meant to enable the pilot to know how to cope in situations where there is no one to assist them and their stuck in the wild especially if carrying out bush flying in remote areas of Africa. The summary of skills are survival, mechanical and electrical1.

Human Factors in Bush Flying

Human factors is the prime cause of accidents and contributes to approximately 75% of accidents in this industry 3. When an accident occurs its normally due to a number of events that have lead up to it (chain of events). These events normally begin with the loss of situational awareness followed by flawed decisions, wrong choices and finally the accident occurring 4. To be able to prevent accidents good situational awareness at all times is requires. Bush flying being as unpredictable as, it is the pilot is constantly faced with decisions and new situations. The terrain that the pilot has to fly in and out of in most cases is very unforgiving and thus at all times the pilot must be aware of the factors and conditions affecting him / her as well as the aircraft at any given time during flight. This is the most important aspect as it’s the beginning link to the causation of accidents and incidents. Most of the flying carried out in bush flying is done under VFR-Visual Flight Rules, where the pilot relies on his / her own perception and outside sighting of the environment around to determine the conditions1. Thus proper training should be given to these pilots to ensure their able to maintain and always practice good situational awareness on every flight.

Improving Human Factors for Bush Pilots

Human factors in regards to bush pilots can be improved by teaching the pilots;

  • CRM (Crew Resource Management).
  • ADM ( Aeronautical Decision Making).
  • SA (Situational Awareness).

Elements that should be included in bush flying training2

  • Personal Limitations.
  • Close Supervision.
  • Mentoring System.
  • Open Channels of Communication: Open communication aids in the development of a safety conscious environment and culture.
  • Gradual Increase of exposure to challenges as experience increases.
1. Pocock, CC. (2009). Bush & Mountain Flying handbook (1st edition 2009). A comprehensive guide to bush flying and survival. Retrieved from
2. Leigh, L., & Rissanen, R. (2010). The Bush Pilot. Recruiting and training better ‘bush pilots’: A research-based approach. Journal of Aviation Management and Education. American University of Beirut, LEBANON. Retrieved 13 September, 2010, form
3. Jeppesen, S. (2003). Jeppesen Instrument Commercial. Englewood, CO: Jeppesen Sanderson.
4. Craig, P. A. (2001). Controlling Pilot Error: Situational Awareness. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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Contributors to this page

Melanie AttanMelanie Attan

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