Want to become a Bush Pilot in Alaska? Here's what you need to know before jumping in.
If you love flying, or are thinking about becoming a pilot, I'm betting you have thought about becoming a Bush Pilot in Alaska or Canada. Unfortunately it's not as easy as jumping in your car, or plane, and heading off to the Great White North! There are requirements that you must meet and things you need to know before trying to land your plane on a remote lake or river bar!
If you don't have your pilot's license, there are two ways to approach getting one. First, you can go the traditional route and get your Certified Pilots License. This will require acquiring pilots training with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI). If you haven't guessed it by now, getting your pilot's license is expensive!
From what I've seen, the average cost to obtain your Pilots license is in the $8,000 to $10,000 price range.
There is another route you can take to legally pilot an aircraft. This is to obtain your Sport Pilots license. The FAA puts restrictions on this type of license. Generally speaking, these restrictions restrict you to flying planes that only have two seats or less and the plane cannot have a maximum gross weight exceeding 1320 pounds. The plane cannot be able to fly faster than 132 mph either.
These FAA requirements will limit the types of airplanes you can fly. These airplanes are known as LSA's (Light Sport Aircraft). Some of the more popular ones I've seen for bush flying are the Piper Cubs, Zenith STOL CH 701 and 750 and the American Champion Scout. These airplanes are capable of very short take-offs and landings.
The best thing about the Sports Pilot license is that it requires about half the time to earn it. This means that the cost is about half as well. I've seen flight schools advertising Sport Pilots license in the $4,000 to $5,000 range. Another advantage of obtaining your Sports License is that you do not have to pass a medical from a flight doctor. As long as you have a valid drivers license, you're good to go.
Other Requirements To Becoming a Bush Pilot
Once you get your pilot's license, you'll still need some other endorsements and training. These will include Float rating (if you plan on flying a plane with floats obviously) and you should take a Bush Pilot course. These will cost nearly as much as your pilot's license with many trainers charging $3000 for 3 days of training and flying. But if becoming a bush pilot is your goal, then you'll need to cough up the dough!
If you plan on flying during the Winter, you can also add some training for skis. Skis, floats and tundra tires all affect the way a plane flies and lands. You'll need to be very familiar with these differences before heading out on your own.
Finally, you should already have decided on why you want to become a bush pilot. If it's just so you can enjoy flying into the backcountry with yourself and a friend, that's cool. A Sports Pilot license is all that you will need.
But if you have hopes of flying commercially, then you should plan on getting plenty of training. It will require that you obtain not only your Certified Pilots License, but your Commercial License as well. This training will take a while to obtian, but if it's your dream it's worth going after!