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Bush Pilot

Old 13th Apr 2011, 22:14
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Bush Pilot

Hey there,

Im in the process of gaining my FAA commercial, and then CFII.Im british so have no green card, but more than anything want to fly single engine single pilot aircraft in the bush of Alaska.What are the chances?And is there any other bush flying/single pilot ops else where in the world which can be done with an FAA licence?

Any replies would be great thanks
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Old 13th Apr 2011, 22:25
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probly not on a FAA licence but the conversion is very very easy, get a Canadian CPL, and head to the canadian bush.plus it will be easier to get a work permit due to the commonwealth agreement
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Old 13th Apr 2011, 22:40
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I have a friend who flies in the Alaskan bush. It is hard to get work there even for Americans. You have to have quite a bit of time actually flying in Alaska. My friend got hired because she did all her training from 0 hrs in Alaska and started out as the telephone receptionist for a flying outfit.

There is also African bush flying (I currently know a Brit in Botswana), and I've met a couple guys flying in Latin America but that was more missionary work.
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Old 14th Apr 2011, 04:28
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probly not on a FAA licence but the conversion is very very easy, get a Canadian CPL, and head to the canadian bush.plus it will be easier to get a work permit due to the commonwealth agreement
Perhaps. HAve a look over on AvCanada though - lots of qualified guys/gals over here looking for seats. Also, it might not be as easy as you think to get a work permit...
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Old 14th Apr 2011, 06:37
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The problem is that they have to show that they could not find a Canadian qualified to do the job before they can employ someone from abroad. As you may imagine, this could be a little tricky with a pilot.

Africa would be the easiest route as far as work permits etc go.
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Old 14th Apr 2011, 08:48
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Go to Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana or Namibia
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Old 14th Apr 2011, 15:07
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Go to Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana or Namibia
YES!!!
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Old 14th Apr 2011, 16:44
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Beware though, permits are becoming increasingly difficult in Africa aswell. Namibian government have said that they will no longer issue permits to pilots with less than 2000 hours. Wouldn't surprise me if this decision gets reversed in the future though.
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Old 16th Apr 2011, 19:37
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Could anyone point me to some information on how to go about finding bush flying jobs?

I've found more information that anyone could read about getting into the airlines, but struggling on how to go about doing things the 'old fashioned' way. I'm in the fortunate position of being able to fund a 100k gamble at getting into an airline but still being young and not tied down i'm more interested in doing some interesting flying and travelling around the world first.

Any pointers to relevant threads or tales of experience would be much appreciated.
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Old 27th Apr 2011, 15:51
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Guide to flying in Africa

Guide to Flying in Africa

Guys n girls. Hope this helps... Flying in Africa is a great way to build up your experience to make you more attractive to the airlines. It is also one hell of a life experience. However, it is not for everyone. For anyone who is interested in flying in this beautiful continent or anyone who is, like I was, just desperate to kick start their career, you may find this summary useful…

I can only speak of what I know. I flew in Botswana for one year, then Tanzania at a place called Mwanza, by Lake Victoria for five months and for several years out of Zanzibar (also Tanzania). I also picked up a bit of information on flying in various other African countries but I would advise you don’t make the ‘go/ no go’ decision based on my information alone. Do your own up to date research – make a few phone calls first – because the situation can change very rapidly.

South Africa:
It can be difficult for low hour pilots to get work here. I’m told from white South Africans that the system is favouring black nationals. However there are exceptions for people with contacts etc. I would not recommend you start your search here however. The vast amount of South Africans that I met searching for work in other African countries should add weight to that advice.

Namibia:
Namibia is a beautiful and safe country to live and fly in. It is here that I started my search for work. The Cessna 210 is the main mode of transport – if you have less than 1000 hours then don’t expect to fly anything bigger. The two main places for low hour pilots are Windhoek (the capital) and Swakopmund. The latter is a very nice town to live in and I found the pilots here very welcoming and friendly. The flying is a little limited, mainly scenic tours up and down the coast line but most of the pilots seemed happy with life and it’s a toe in the door.
The flying out of Windhoek is more varied, taking tourists on flying safaris that can last several days. The pilot gets to partake on the ground part of the safaris too, which I would view as a massive perk to the job. Each company is different but the legs are generally two hours and you can expect between 500 and 700 hours per year.
However, when I was there, although I had companies interested, they all said that the Namibian government had sponsored national people through their commercial license, who were now beginning to qualify and thus these nationals must be employed before foreigners. Therefore if you go to Namibia, then check with the companies what the current situation is before you go.
If you do get work here, it comes highly recommended for lifestyle, great flying and all round great country. I don’t know about how long it takes to progress to bigger aircraft.
Most jobs are available between December and April but you could be lucky, outside this time bracket. I wouldn’t bother between July and October though. You need a minimum of a commercial license and 200 hours.

Botswana
The flying for low hour pilots in Botswana is initially in Cessna 206 aircraft out of a town called Maun. Progression to the Islander or Caravan normally takes between one and two years. Maun is the gateway to the world famous Okavango Delta. Anyone who is a fan of the Geography Channel will know about it, a riverine paradise, full of channels and lagoons, and teeming with wildlife. The government, committed to low-impact tourism, divided it into concessions, which are enjoyed from 5 star luxury lodges, each of which is serviced by a bush strip. There are no roads into the Delta.
Botswana is a beautiful and safe country, one of Africa’s finest. Maun itself is not so pleasing to the senses but the people make the place – with so many pilots, hunters and safari guides you’re never short of company.
The C206 has a shorter take off and landing distance than the C210 but the runways are also shorter than in Namibia. It is real bush flying but the training is good – you’ll need to sit on the right or left seat a minimum of 50 hours before you can take command (I think the same is also true for Namibia). This can take several weeks. The work is varied and also includes the chance to overnight in the lodges and do free safaris in what is arguably the best safari country in the world. One place I stayed at costs the paying customer over 1000 USD per person per night. Blows the mind.
Expect plenty of frustration before you go command ie it can take many weeks of sitting around wasting money before you get employed (if ever) and the CAA can be very lazy and slow – but not corrupt – so the process of doing your Air Law exam and aircraft technical exam and getting your license converted can also take weeks. It is probably about one in two or three people who turn up that are successful in their quest for a job. You won’t get a job there unless you go there – quite simply – like everywhere in Africa. It’s all about whether your face fits in.
My advice is to be persistent enough to show that you are keen but don’t be a pain. Once you have introduced yourself to each company’s chief pilot or operations manager (which is effectively your initial interview, but very casual) and given them a copy of your CV don’t just sit by the swimming pool at the campsite and wait for a phone call. Nor should you hassle the pilots or hang around in their offices uninvited. Pop your head in to the company offices every few days to say hello and ask if they have any spare seats on any of their flights that you can go on. This will remind them you are keen and still around, it will also get you closer to getting your 50 hours of experience in the Delta, thus making you more employable, it will keep you in touch with what is going on and you’ll enjoy it; the flying there is probably the most enjoyable flying I’ll ever do. You’ll also get to know the pilots more, which is also important. In some companies they can have a lot of influence on who gets hired. Go drinking on Friday nights, from 6 o’ clock, at the pub by the airport (when I was there it was called ‘the Bull and Bush’ but this may have changed.) Find out what sporting activities the pilots do and ask if you can join in (rugby, football, cricket etc).
The hiring time is the same as in Namibia and you can expect between 700 and 1000 hours per year.
Financially on your wage (in the region of 1000 USD), one person can live comfortably and save some money but don’t expect to support more than two on a pilot’s wage.
Almost all the pilots are expatriate, mainly Kiwi and South African.
The standard of maintenance is good.

Zambia
There are definitely jobs to be had in Zambia and good twin engine opportunities but I don’t know too much else except that it is a good country to live in. Proflight I hear are a good company to get in to.

Kenya
The flying is great and the pay is excellent but getting started can take a very long time with lots of exams to take. You might be better off doing your Tanzanian license, then converting just by doing one air law exam. I know some pilots who complained that you can’t get a work permit without a residence permit and the reverse is also true… hence no way in. Seems a bit odd to me – there must be people who get past the problems but look in to it. With Kenya Airways expanding there’s plenty of jobs appearing amongst the smaller companies. A lot of companies there do humanitarian flying to neighbouring countries, some of it contract work. Other problems are that corruption is huge and you’d be lucky to get a job without a contact or a lot more than 200 hours. Wide variety of aircraft.

Tanzania
There are four places for pilots to be based in Tanzania: Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza and Zanzibar. Arusha is similar to Maun, Mwanza is a dull and ugly but comparitively well paid, Dar es Salaam is nice if you live in the expatriate areas but more expensive and more commuting time to the airport. Zanzibar is great if you make the most of it – get a car, make an effort to enjoy the island on your days off, get a nice place to live, get involved in the expat community etc.
Pay can be better or worse than Botswana depending on who you work for and what you fly. E.G. a pilot of a Cessna 206 can get between 500 USD a month and 2200 USD. In Zanzibar I was on 1500 USD flying the Seneca, now 1800 USD on the Cessna 402 which is not that competitive but I live very well, with almost no commuting time and still save more than half of my wage.
Again, in Tanzania, the flying is great, mainly based on the tourist industry except in Mwanza which is mainly taking the mining executives to the various gold and diamond mines and some work for the hunting camps and one good company there does a lot of flying in to Uganda and the DRC. There are more opportunities for twin engine flying in Tanzania than in Botswana and Namibia but only once you’ve got 1000 hours plus in most cases. There are less opportunities for 200 hour pilots but you could get lucky with some companies and there’s less competition from other job seekers. Most people get jobs if they are determined and patient.
Recruitment is not really fixed to a few months of the year. It can happen any time. More than half of the pilots are expats. Some of the companies will give you free flights around the country if you are in your pilots uniform.
Maintenance facilities are poor but at the end of the day if the pilot isn’t happy with the aircraft he won’t fly it. It’s just that it takes them several attempts to do simple jobs. It took me ten test flights before accepting my aircraft after a major check. Do your checks and don’t compromise on standards!
Again, corruption is rife and there can be frustrations in getting the job and your licenses converted etc. The CAA aren’t easy to deal with – be polite and patient, no matter how angry they make you.


In summary, a search for work in Africa can be frustrating and success is not guaranteed but the successful candidates are normally the ones who are the most determined and for me any initial frustrations were quickly forgotten and well worth it. I went with the attitude that if it did not work out I would just try and enjoy the traveling anyway and treat it as a holiday. Maybe this is a good policy but it could take between one week and several months of trying before you get a job. Patience is key. Get your logbooks stamped before you go. The CAA’s like stamps – from training schools, previous jobs etc. Don’t go with less than 200 hours and an up to date medical and commercial license, which you will convert when you get to the country and certainly when you enter the country tick the box that says ‘tourist for 3 months’. Don’t tell immigration that you are looking for work. Contracts are normally for 2 years but if you give at least a month’s notice it is normally easy enough to leave before that time is up.
The benefits of flying in Africa are hours in your log book, PIC time, great times, improved flying skills and amazing experiences. It can help your career and over the course of a 30 year career, 2 or 3 years in Africa will spice it up a bit and give you plenty of stories to talk about during those long sectors in a 747! Hope this all helps…
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Old 27th Apr 2011, 19:35
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The Bobmeister

Thanks so much for your advice!!! I can confirm what you are saying about South Africa is very true.
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Old 28th Apr 2011, 04:50
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Wonderful advice. I have been to Maun and travelled extensively around Africa. PM me if there is anything else you want to know.
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Old 2nd May 2011, 18:17
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Originally Posted by The Bobmeister
The benefits of flying in Africa are hours in your log book, PIC time, great times, improved flying skills and amazing experiences. It can help your career and over the course of a 30 year career, 2 or 3 years in Africa will spice it up a bit and give you plenty of stories to talk about during those long sectors in a 747! Hope this all helps…
I couldn't agree more. An extremely helpful post to those thinking about heading to Africa to fly. All I can say is go for it!!!!! You will LEARN to fly there
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Old 4th May 2011, 12:44
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Question do they require IR?

Bobmeister, thank you for your post - it pre-emptied almost every possible question about africa flying.
Can you clarify if you need IR to get the job over there?
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Old 8th Jun 2012, 13:50
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bush pilot

Hi there,
i'm a "bush pilot" with about 1400 PIC on twin piston.
But now, i wanna try higher FL. Does anyone have some hint for me?
It looks like people wouldn't really prefer experience from light twin piston ...
Thx for your clue!
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Old 3rd Jul 2012, 21:46
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It's what I did but in the Kimberley, Australia. Similar experiences but the animals aren't quite as bitey. Well, except the crocs.
Great fun.
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Old 4th Jul 2012, 17:53
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This topic has already been started in the Private section.

I am curious to know though - is it possible to go to Canada or Alaska and get a bush flying job with a JAA fATPL? Get it converted perhaps? Or you must be a US or Canadian citizen?

And for flying in Africa, I guess they accept CAA/ JAA licenses?
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Old 5th Jul 2012, 10:20
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Bearcat F8F, you'll have to look at the Canadian and US immigration sites to see what's required. From what I understand, the US requires a "green card" (enter the lottery) and you'll need to convert your licence. Mates have said it can take quite a while to jump through all the hoops. Canada, not so sure on their requirements.

Flying in Africa will require Air Law etc. It does depend on the country. Again, look at the individual state's requirements.

Back to the show. I'm enjoying it. It's reminding me of the flying I did in Oz. Of course a lot of it is probably "to camera". I am astounded that people think it's acceptable to rock up to see the Chief Pilot in a t-shirt and thongs/flip flops. I sincerely hope that was a set piece and not genuine.
Top tip. Have a look at what the working guys are wearing and mimic that standard. It's the least you can do.
What it is highlighting is that the work won't fall into your lap.

Any way, it's fun.
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Old 5th Jul 2012, 12:09
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Bearcat F8F, it is a typical single/twin piston job that you'll find in Africa, New Zealand, Australia, USA and the "warmer" bits in Canada. PNG is in a class of it's own...

Why land off airport if you don't have to?
Whilst a Super Cub is a great little aeroplane, it won't lift what a C206 or C207 will nor will it fly the distance.
If you were a passenger being ferried to a resort that costs £1,000/night, what would you prefer? A Super Cub or a C208?
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Old 5th Jul 2012, 12:25
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Not saying its easy, but doesn't seem anywhere near as challenging as the guys flying in Alaska.
With the consequent accident rate. Believe me any form of commercial light piston flying is challenging whatever the environment. Short bumpy/wet/soft runways, weather issues, long days followed by longer days and pressure to get the job done whether internal or external is all very challenging and bottom clenching.

But as they're were keen to point out on the show, these operators are not the cliched 'cowboy' bush flyers of yore. Which is obvious in the fact that they can employ very low time pilots in their operations.

One thing aspiring pilots need to note from this show is the emphasis on having the right personality and showing enthusiasm. In fact even when it comes to the airlines this is important. The very fact that you went out of your way and did something different tells it's own story to the interviewer.

I was involved in recruiting a pilot and we used the same method of personality testing and essentially before he even sat in an aircraft we knew we had the right guy. Once flying we gave him a hard time and tried to rattle him. Again he met the grade. Plus he was lucky, right place, right time. It was amazingly difficult to find someone who ticked all those boxes despite all the pilots who turned up and told us they would do anything to fly for us.

That's the great lesson of this show. You can have all the ratings you want but if you have the personality of a fish you will struggle and never know why.

I think the one negative consequence of this show will be that the campsites of Maun will be chock full of wannabees next year. The operators will be spoiled for choice.
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