I was approached by Jim Atkinson to write a review of the book that was written about his father ( Fred Atkinson). Only having interviewed one author Matt McClaughlin and having never done a pilot book review before, I decided to give it a shot.
The book is written as if his father was having a beer and sharing some of his awesome stories from being a pilot. Pilots love hearing stories from other pilots and I have even written one of my experiences on this blog.
The unedited version of the book so there were quite a few spelling errors, which hopefully has been corrected in the amazon version. Unfortunately it is only available for kindle (affiliate link).
My initial reaction when I started reading the book was that it jumped all over the place, which I wasn’t quite used to. You could definitely tell that it was not written by a seasoned author. From the book’s blurb, the expectation of the book is that it will flow from his days of barnstorming to getting the National Flight Instructor award. (I had to google what barnstorming was, I had no idea). It ended up being a grouping of interesting stories from Fred Atkinson’s long career as a pilot.
The stories individually were super entertaining. A few of them would get him sued left, right and center these days.
This is the beauty of the book though. It’s not filtered and you get to know exactly what is going on in Jim’s father’s head. I had a good laugh at one of the stories involving an instructor holding onto a wing strut to encourage his student to fly accurately.
This book allows us to get a better understanding of what it was like to be a pilot and flight instructor in the 1930’s and on wards. The flow of the book was very strange and there were lots of writing errors, which bothered me.
This book would appeal to aviation enthusiasts as there are a few terms in the book that only make sense if you have some knowledge of the aviation industry. If you can overlook the frequent writing errors in the book, you’ll enjoy it.
If you think there is a book that should be reviewed, please comment
I came across Danie when I was browsing through his Instagram (our instagram is filled with reposts from you awesome people) and his photos flying a C206 In Guyana, South America. I haven’t interviewed anyone who has flown there so I thought it would be interesting to find out how he ended up there.
He currently flies the Cessna Grand Caravan in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania for Fly Safari Airlink. I’m sure you have had enough of me blabbering away, here’s our standard 5 questions we ask out featured Bush Pilots.
What would be your number one piece of advice for aspiring bush pilots starting out in the industry?
Fly your plane, no matter what situation you find yourself in good or bad, never stop flying your plane. As soon as you lose focus even for a few seconds during critical operations, you start getting behind the aircraft, that’s when mistakes happen.
Know your own limits and that of your aircraft, if it doesn’t feel good, go around, no need to be a hero.
Fly outside, there is no need to keep looking at your instruments during VFR, enjoy the view.
What was the route you took to becoming the Bush Pilot you are today?
I grew up on a Game farm in South Africa. That is where my love for the bush grew into what it is today. I was very privileged to be introduced into aviation at an early age by my dad.
My first job was flying a C210 and Eclipse 500 for a company in my hometown. It was good, they gave me amazing opportunities but I belonged in the bush. Flying from city to city just didn’t do it for me any longer.
One night I was searching bush jobs on the internet when I came across an ad for a C206 position in Guyana, South America (Kanuku Tours). I was a bit hesitant initially but ended up applying. The following day we had a Skype interview, and a week later I had my first flight over the Amazon. What ensued was the best two and a half years of my life.
What would you say is the hardest thing about being a Bush Pilot?
You will not always be based in the best cities and countries, but stick it through. The reward at the end is without a doubt worth it. The flying itself is easy.
How did you manage to get the job you’re currently at?
I was very lucky, I had just arrived in Namibia, was there for about a month flying the C210 out of Swakopmund. When I received an email from the chief pilot inviting me to Tanzania. Needless to say 2 days later I was on a plane back to SA to do my type rating on the C208 before coming to Dar Es Salaam, where I am currently based.
The first month and a half here was spent doing my route training and getting my license converted, before being released on the Van
What has been your number one memory about flying?
Shuttling missions out of Venezuela. I used to shuttle a C206 from a strip deep in the jungle on the banks of the Rio Cuyuni River, separating Guyana and Venezuela. The strip itself wasn’t too bad 1600ft surrounded by 100ft trees, one way in one way out to avoid flying over the Venezuelan army camp that looks straight down the center line from across the river.
Mostly cargo, 55gal drums of diesel and gasoline flown into 800-1000ft jungle strips to supply the mining operations in Guyana. That was where I learned how to really fly a plane. It was extremely intense but probably the most addictive thing I have ever done.
Currently I am flying a Caravan in Tanzania, it is amazing the scenery and places we get to see is just out of this world.
If you enjoyed this interview there are a couple more with an ex Wilderness Air Botswana & Namibia pilot, an ex Susi air pilot and another with the author of the book, “Flying the Knife edge” (affiliate link)
All photos were taken by Danie
This is a guide on how to become a Bush Pilot. I have gone through all these steps and failed to do some. These are the things I could have done to get to where I am today slightly quicker.
STEP 1 : RESEARCH COMPANIES YOU WANT TO WORK FOR
Pick the area or company that you want to work for. Setting yourself a goal gives you something to work towards. It will keep you motivated to become a bush pilot.
Trust me when I say there have been days briefing for 3 hours with my monotone voice. The student giving me the, “My eyes are open but on the inside, I’m asleep”, look. That’s when I bring out the bush flying YouTube videos and we both wake up!Read More
I know when I was considering being a bush pilot, I wanted to know what was involved. By watching these bush pilot series, I got a much better understanding of what it would be like and which area would be best for me.
Worst Place to Be a Pilot
Seasons : 1 (4 Episodes)
Follows young pilots around Indonesia, this helps you get an understanding of what pilots go through working for Susi Air and how remote the flying can actually be. Matt Dearden (we interviewed him) features quite prominently and this is where I first encountered him and his website. This bush pilot series is really dramatized to give it mass appeal but the core of what is going on is pretty accurate.
Seasons : 1 (10 Episodes)
Well of course this one had to be on the list. We even interviewed one of the pilots that was in this series, Malcolm. This series also follows young pilots getting jobs in Maun, Botswana. It is a bit out dated these days but still entertaining to watch. The main company it focuses on is Wilderness Air
Flying Wild Alaska
Seasons : 3 (31 Episodes)
Dam you film producers and making everything seem so dramatic. This series is another awesome one at the core, just remember the dramatic side that has been added. Following the family run company in Alaska into the mountains
Alaska’s Ultimate Bush Pilots
Seasons : 3 (17 Episodes)
The most recent of bush pilot series to be released. I like this one alot as it is not only new pilots coming through but experienced bush pilots showing what things are really like. Also based in Alaska (duh) this follows the company Island Air.
Seasons : 6 (65 Episodes)
This series follows Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife, Canada. These guys fly old World War type aircraft, like the Dc-3 and 4!
Thank you so much to our readers Josh Cisneros and on twitter Ronan Kelly for reminding to add the most successful of all the Bush Pilot series. I know, I know, how could I forget to add the most popular of all of them!
If there are any series I have missed out here, I would be happy to consider adding them. Please comment with your suggestions below
It took me awhile in the industry to figure out what I was doing wrong with my Pilot CV.
First off, I’ll say that I messed up tons of job opportunities because I would just email the chief pilot asking him what the minimum requirements were to join the company.
#TIP NUMBER ONE, chief pilots get tons of emails from people and they don’t have the time to reply to an email of some random person they have never heard of.
Here is a CV Template available here, so you don’t have to wait until the end if that is all you came here for.
THE PILOT CV/RESUME
I’ll start from the top
No funny word art, just a clean bold large font. Eg. Chuck Yeager (If I got a CV from someone called Chuck Yeager, he would be hired immediately hahaha).
The aviation industry is smaller than you think and your name may have been overheard by the chief pilot etc. No need to include the word resume or CV, the chief pilot will know what it is when he sees it.
Tell the company what position you are applying for, aviation companies can be massive. It helps to show your intentions clearly, right on the CV. This also helps to show that there was some prior research made into the company and that the CV is tailored for them, make the employer feel special!
This is where people vary in what they want to include but the definites to include are and why they are included are :
Helps if you’ll need a work visa etc. some pilots are employed because it is easier for them to receive a work permit than another pilot.
If you have dual citizenship, include that!
TELEPHONE NUMBER & EMAIL
You need to be contacted, I usually include preferred method of contact and hours available to be contacted via telephone (remember to put in the country code too!). If an employer cannot get hold of you, he will just move onto the next pilot on the list.
LICENSE NUMBER & ISSUING AUTHORITY
Some companies check up with the local authority and find out if there are any accident or incidents related to the licence number. They also check to see if the licence is actually legitimate.
This is something I have previously not had on my CV but I definitely think it is an awesome idea that I got after reading sabushpilot’s post!
DATE OF BIRTH
An easy way to determine your age, some positions are more suited to younger or older pilots
This is the main one that anyone considering a pilot CV will look to find immediately, this is why I usually include it near the top of the CV. Make it easy to read. If applying for a caravan position, put the amount of experience you have in a caravan. If applying for an instructor position, include the amount of instructing experience you have.
Adapt, adapt, adapt! each job is different and needs to be tailored to. Basic things that need to be included are :
Total, PIC, Multi Engine, Instructor, Instrument, Night
I prefer to round my flight time down to the nearest 5 when sending CV, some advice I received from my father was, “under promise, over deliver!”
CERTIFICATIONS & RATINGS
Multi Engine, Night, Instrument, Dangerous Goods, CRM & MCC, make sure to add every expiry date of your certificates.
Only include your aviation related jobs, some people will title this “experience/ work experience” instead.
If you are proud that you worked hard to get your licence working at a bar for two years this will come out in the actual interview.
Make sure to put the most recent employer at the top of the list and then work down from there. There is no need to include the full job description, just the job title and a short description will do.
EDUCATION & TRAINING
Briefly include your high school, university (if you have a degree) & latest training (include the date of training, where it was held and the simulator/aircraft used)
Only include this if you have enough space at the bottom and if the employer specifically asks for them.
PILOT CV TIPS
- Keep it to one page
- Be to the point, don’t include too much fluffy extra stuff
- Only include a photograph if it is requested, people do judge on first appearances
- Tailor the CV to the specific company you are applying to
- Use one font throughout, make it easy to read
- Send it as a pdf! This makes the file smaller and easier to download
- Don’t forget to attach the CV to your cover letter, yes this has happened to me.
Keep an eye for next month when we cover the cover letter! Yes I said cover twice. So you have updated your CV and want to know how to get your first bush pilot job, have a look at this post
All pilots love an awesome view from above, that’s one of the reasons we become pilots. I recently started flying in Papua and some of these runways are just too awesome not to share! This is why I went on the hunt for the best bush pilot drone.
The problem comes when trying to get a picture of these runways, you can try take one when you’re a passenger coming into land but that does not happen too often. You can try take one when you’re on final approach, but that’s just plane dangerous (shocking pun, I know) and you don’t get a pretty picture of your aircraft on the runway.
The solution : Use a drone! After a few weeks of not quite getting the right photo I wanted. I decided a drone was the way to go. The drone I picked was the DJI Spark and here are the reasons why.
It is absolutely tiny, it fits in the palm of your hand. Yes yes, I know you can get the Mavic but can it be charged by a power bank or the cigarette lighter of your plane? This was a major draw card for me.
No Controller needed
This little Spark can be controlled with just your phone or tablet, something you’ll have on you anyway. With the Mavic you’ll need the controller, which adds to the weight of what you will be carrying.
After spending so many dollar dollar bills on my pilot license being able to spend 500 USD on a drone that can do all that I want it to is quite handy. I did consider the Xiro Xplorer but this just ended up being far too big for me to carry. When you’re overnighting with your headset bag, lunch bag and overnight bag, you don’t really want to be adding another bag just for your pilot drone.
I am also a novice with flying drones so I wanted something that allows me to upgrade it if I want to take things more seriously. With the controller you get a bunch more options and the distance you can fly increases.
The gimbal! It works awesomely, other drones in the same price range don’t have the same ability. Apart from the Xiro Xplorer.
There are none. Jokes, that’s what I would say if I was just trying to sell you this drone.
Using a phone you can only fly 50m vertically and 150m horizontally. I found this a little frustrating in this picture because I couldn’t quite get the entire runway in sight.
The picture and video quality is no Mavic pro but it is perfect for me that is not a videographer. It definitely would be able to be good enough to be shown on a YouTube channel.
The battery life sucks! 10 minutes of flying. This wasn’t too bad as all I was wanted to do was fly straight up and across, take a picture and come land.
I’m addicted now and want to fly further and higher. So I’ll have to buy the remote which costs another USD 120!
No Fly Zones
The no fly zones are killer! I live within a 5nm radius of the airport and when I first got the drone, I couldn’t even test it in my garden as it is a no fly zone with other drones this is possible.
- Be careful when catching it, cut my thumb trying to catch it in the air hahaha.
- If you have the space get the Xiro! It comes with the controller and is super stable.
Do you guys know of any drones that I should of considered?
If you like looking at pretty picture of planes, you should check at our post on the best pilot instagram accounts to follow
Disclaimer : All the links provided are affiliate links
Our last bush pilot interview was with a pilot that flew in the Papua, so this time we decided to see what happens Southern Africa.
The Flying Scotsman, a legend of a man and my favorite pilot on the documentary “Bush Pilots”.
Malcolm is an example of someone who fell in love with Africa and bush flying. He spent his time flying the C206 and C208B for Wilderness Air in Namibia and Botswana.He is now in Guernsey flying the C208 for Waves.
Here’s our usual 5 questions we ask our bush pilots, the end story is the best though, definitely worth reading until the end!
What would be your number one piece of advice for an aspiring bush pilot starting out in the industry?
Be creative and open to considering new possibilities and don’t get too downhearted by setbacks.
Sometimes the best opportunities can arise when things don’t go to plan.
I am from Scotland, but my first commercial flying was with Wilderness Air Botswana, a company that I did not think I could get into with the limited flight experience I had at the time.
Though I had been attracted to the idea of being a bush pilot for many years, I only went job hunting in Botswana after I was made redundant during the financial crises that spread from the USA in the late noughties. Initially this was a pretty upsetting set of circumstances, but I probably would never have become a bush pilot if it hadn’t been for the recession.
What was the route you took to becoming a bush pilot? (Malcolm is no longer a bush pilot)
In late 2011, I took the plunge; packed my tent and travelled to Maun, Botswana.
I lived in that small tent for two months in the scorching heat while I went through the strange ritual of trying to stand out among all the other job seeking hopefuls that turned up from around the world.
Living in a dusty town full of donkeys and working as a bush pilot isn’t for everyone, so the selection process is as much about trying to demonstrate that you can fit in as it is about your flying skills. There are over a hundred pilots employed by nine companies in Maun, but the majority that come looking for a job are unsuccessful. Luckily for me, I was one of the successful ones.
However, getting the job offer turned out to be the easy part as I still had to get a commercial pilot’s licence issued by the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana and then apply for work and residency permits.
I had initially thought that I would go to Botswana for a year or two, but just becoming a useful pilot for the company took much longer than I expected, the permit process alone took nearly a year for me. From first stepping on Kalahari sands to going online as a pilot on the C206 took me just short of two years!
Botswana teaches you a lot about frustration and patience.
What would you say is the hardest thing about being a bush pilot?
The exact circumstances will depend on where you fly, but commonly you will be working in extremely remote locations in harsh conditions, often with little or no contact with anybody else.
You need to have good decision making skills and be able to deal with difficult situations alone.
It can also involve very unpredictable schedules and lots of nights away, so if you like routine then bush flying is not for you.
However, for me it was definitely all worth it and very rewarding as I became immersed in some of the most incredible natural environments you can imagine. Working in Botswana, I got to fly into and stay at exceptional lodges in the magical Okavango Delta, along the Linyanti River and in the Kalahari.
These are some of the most special wilderness areas left on our planet and the Okavango was deservedly designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site during my time in Botswana. Go arounds and aborted take offs due to animals on the runway were something I always had to prepared for and it was an unusual day at work if I didn’t see elephants.
I also regularly did flights into neighbouring Zimbabwe and Zambia, often taking a scenic detour over the awe inspiring Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
After being based in Botswana, I moved to Windhoek where I got to fly over the epic landscapes of Namibia. From the spectacular mountain regions and the vast sand seas of the Namib desert to the eerie shipwrecks of the fog clad Skeleton Coast, it is a truly an astonishing place. Travelling around Namibia, whether by land or air, feels more like exploring multiple alien planets than a journey through one country on Earth.
How did you manage to get the job you’re currently at?
I discovered Waves on social media in their early days of development. They are a new technology focused, demand led air taxi service based on the island of Guernsey between France and England.
Their initial aircraft type is the Grand Caravan, a favourite of bush pilots around the world, and when I heard about their exciting plans, I got in touch with them. Shortly after I had a three-way international phone call between Cape Town, Guernsey and England, and a couple of months later, I started as their first pilot.
What has been your number one memory about flying?
I have many unbelievable memories from my five or so years in Africa, but one memory that stands out was when I was involved in an unusual mission to relocate nine orphaned wild dog puppies by air. It was an exceptional collaborative effort between the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Wilderness Safaris, Wilderness Air and The Botswana Predator Conservation Trust. I was on a day off on the day it was due to happen and I wasn’t rated on the aircraft type to be used, but since this was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss, I convinced our Operations Manager to let me go along as an assistant.
African wild dogs are an endangered species and the puppies in question had been rescued when the adults from their pack had all been killed. The day before the translocation flight, an Italian colleague and I flew down to an airstrip in the Kalahari to meet up with a member of our Environmental Department who was caring for the puppies.
He had been camping alone for a week beside their enclosure to protect them from lions. On a previous night, he had to scare some lions away that were trying to dig under the basic fence around the enclosure. Myself and the other pilot also took a tent and camped with him. During the night, we heard the lions close by again, but luckily they didn’t make another attempt to get to the puppies that night.
The next morning, we were up before sunrise to put the puppies into a crate for transport, which was quite challenging since they were wild animals that were not used to humans. Once we had them all rounded up, we headed off for the bumpy drive to the airstrip. On reaching the aircraft, a Mahindra Airvan, we secured the crate into the back, before setting off for the roughly hour long flight to an airstrip on the edge of the Okavango Delta.
During the flight, I went back to check on our VIP passengers, but they were surprisingly calm despite the very noisy and unnatural environment they were in.
On landing, we were met by a vet and members of the Botswana Predator Consevation Trust. The other pilot had to leave, but I opted to stay with the puppies. After the vet checked the puppies over, it was decided to attempt an immediate release of the four strongest puppies with another pack that had puppies of a similar age. It was a long drive, followed by a final walk through dense vegetation to reach the den. At first the puppies were reluctant to leave the security of the cage, but eventually one tentatively left and then dived into the den, quickly followed by the three remaining siblings. It was a heart-warming occasion to witness.
Later that day, before setting up my tent in the bush again, I got to join the research team while they darted one of the adult dogs to sedate it while it’s tracking collar was changed. It was a real thrill to be able to feel the breathing of an endangered wild animal while these dedicated and often underappreciated people went about their work.
In a heartening demonstration of the caring nature of wild dogs, I later discovered that the remaining puppies were introduced to another wild dog pack that had no puppies of their own and the pack proceeded to make a den to protect the new arrivals. With such endearing sociable characteristics like this, African wild dogs are one of my favourite animals and, with continued efforts by organisations such as the Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, hopefully the future prospects for this fascinating species can improve.
With the potential for extraordinarily rewarding experiences like this, who wouldn’t want to be a bush pilot? For those of you that are up for the challenge, best of luck from me….you won’t regret it!
All photographs were taken by Malcolm