Bush pilots are often romanticized and portrayed in popular media as being rough and tough with a nonchalant attitude to danger and little regard for authority, flying their often un-airworthy airplanes into dangerous places. It is true that bush flying often takes pilots into remote, undeveloped and inhospitable regions of the world, however most pilots that choose this line of work appreciate the dangers and take every precaution necessary to get their cargo or passengers to their destination safely.
Bush flying is thought to have originated in the northern regions of Canada where many small communities are isolated and can only be reached by air. At first bush flying served the purpose of getting essential supplies to northern communities, but soon developed to support the remote mining interests in the country. Bush flying also opened up the increasingly popular tourist activities of hiking, climbing and canoeing in some of the most beautiful places imaginable.
Bush flying is essential with regard to controlling and protecting game in many African nature reserves. Bush pilots need incredible skill and patience for this type of work as animals are tracked, often for research purposes, and poachers are hunted down over vast areas. Bush flying also makes it possible for doctors to reach remote villages to assess the medical wellbeing of communities and offer assistance, such as vaccination programs.
Bush flying often involves landing in rough terrain making it necessary for the aircraft to be equipped with floats, skis or large low-pressure tundra tires. Bush pilots need to develop the skills and confidence necessary to successfully deal with unpredictable weather, landing on make-shift airstrips, gravel, and sometimes places where no airplane has landed before, as well as host of other hazards, all the while bearing in mind that they will be some distance away from help in an emergency. These skills may include survival skills such as shelter building and animal trapping, as well as comprehensive first-aid training and aircraft mechanical skills. The uncertain nature of bush flying has led to many innovative and untested methods being used to accomplish the job at hand, proving the adage that “necessity is the mother of invention”. Many common aviation practices used today were pioneered by bush pilots.
With bush flying being the primary method of transport across areas such as the Australian Outback, the African Sahara, Canada and Alaska, bush pilots perform an essential service to people living in remote areas – and have a whole lot of fun and heart-stopping adventure at the same time.