The Bush Pilot Company

Providing Information & Training Required
for Operating Modern Bush Planes.

How to Take the "Bush" Out
 of the Bush Pilot

  Virtual Horizons now brings to you a new concept in bush flying. How to take the “bush” out of the bush pilot. With today's modern and very expensive bush planes becoming more and more prevalent pilots have to become more mindful of today's technology. Turbine engines, FCUs, emergency power levers, Ng and ITT Indicators, amphibious gear mechanisms, reversing propellers, pitch locks, GPS approaches, TCAS, GPWS, stormscopes, color radar, ground mapping, moving map displays, air conditioning, beta backup systems, overspeed governors, and a host of other technological toys are starting to fill the cockpit with more gizmos than the average pilot can manage, and still aviate, navigate, and communicate.
       All these modern wonders are supposed to make our lives safer and easier, but do they? Put all those toys into one flying package along with some good-old-boy from the bush or the young kid who just left his mamma at home and watch what happens. Most good pilots are going to have a hell of a time keeping that technological wonder that your company just paid a million bucks for moving in a straight line, let alone figure out if that glaring red light means that either: the engine is on fire, the battery is overheating, the generator has gone offline, the gear is stuck halfway down, the fuel reservoir is low, there is a bogie on the TCAS or a hill looming on the GPWS, or the passenger in a white robe has opened the cargo door.
      Oh, yeah, did I mention that this is while he is doing a coupled ILS approach in 1/2 mile of dust haze into some African country run by a dictator that no one outside of his country can pronounce the name of, and the control tower has just informed the pilot that he has violated military airspace recently placed because of an attempted coup this morning and that the Captain will be arrested on arrival? Now what was that red light for again?
       I don't know about you, but most bush pilot would rather be scud running in a Norseman about that time. In fact, that scenario is not so exaggerated. A Lufthansa A340 crew had to deal with a similar circumstance coming into the Ivory Coast not that long ago. The pilots declared that the ILS was not working and commanded a go-around to their alternate, which was a non-coup attempt country just 20 minutes away, and then cleaned up the red light situation by recycling the gear. Ok, that is the big boys you argue, but that could have just as easily been you or one of your pilots in your million-dollar turbine Otter or Caravan.
       What the difference between the Lufthansa crew and the pilot on the Cessna Caravan will be about $250,000 worth of training. The big boys spend the money to keep their pilots as sharp as an EFIS screen and quicker than an Inmarsat data link. The usual scenario for when a company buys a turbine Otter or amphib Caravan, however, is for the owner to find a high time floatplane pilot who has time on the Otter and the King Air, and have the Chief Pilot take him around the patch a few times. Ok, maybe your company is not that bad. They send their King Air pilots to Flight Safety on the Caravan and then let them loose on the amphib Caravan. Actually that could be just as bad. In neither case is the pilot trained on the actual equipment that he is going to fly.
       The deal is that the big airlines have plenty of options when it comes to training. All the big aircraft have Cat C simulators for a start, with the initial and recurrent flight training farmed out by either the manufacturer or the airline. But, what the airlines cannot farm out they grow at home. Everyone knows that British Airways run their own flight training academy for future employees. And companies like American Airlines and Lufthansa run commercial flight schools for their pilots and other paying customers. Plus all the big airlines have a very intensive initial and recurrent ground school that covers both technical and operational aspects of the company's flying. There is no shortage of options for the big airlines.
       What about the 5000 hour bush pilot transiting onto a Turbo-Beaver, or a Caravan amphib? At least for the Caravan there is the Flight Safety simulator. The simulator, however, is for the Grand Caravan on wheels. There is no simulator for the amphib version. Although I did have an instructor ask me to land in the Boston Harbor in their new daytime Class C simulator. I made a safe water landing except it was like landing in about 2 meters of fog. Only the top of the cockpit stuck out from the fog as I taxied around in the harbor. It was not at all realistic and it fact the wheels went squeak squeak when I touched down. The truth is that the amphib version is different enough that it requires a separate checkout and not just a run around the pond.
       That is true for the Twin Otter simulator as well. There is a nifty Flight Safety Simulator in Toronto that packs realism into their full flap critical engine failure go-around that makes you fight to the death to stay right side up. I've had veteran Twin Otter drivers tell me "that is one maneuver you never want to attempt."
       "Oh, I've done it at least 6 times,” I offer casually while failing to mention it was in the simulator. But, there is no simulator for the Twin Otter on floats or on the newer amphib version. And there is nothing at all for the Turbo-Beaver or Turbine Otter, let alone for the collection of new well-equipped quarter of a million dollar C206's hitting the market in recent years. Specialized training is really not offered for these special aircraft.
       When I started training pilots IFR/VFR on a fully IFR equipped Turbo-Beaver on floats, and later an IFR Caravan amphib, I realized that I was suddenly entering territory that few had dared to venture into before. Long before single-engine IFR was legal for commercial operations in Canada, we were doing so in Africa. Some old time West Coast pilots even told me that VFR and IFR do not mix. Flying both is dangerous and in fact, VFR pilot should not even get a IFR rating cause it will just tempt them further into situations that they can't handle.
       Further more the POH's and the checklists sometimes fail to fully reflect the two types of flying from land IFR to water VFR. I had run into this many years ago, when a MOT inspector failed me on a Twin Beech 18 PPC ride for not following the manufacturers checklist for an engine run-up. He wanted me to run each engine up to full power and do the mag check, one at a time, while the engine was roaring away. Well that would have been fine on wheels with the brakes on, but we were on floats! On a narrow river I might add. With one engine at full power and one at idle, needless to say, we would be running in circles.
       He then suggested I do it with both engines at full power. I objected saying that I would be airborne before I could complete my checks, and besides that again would not be following the checklist. In exasperation he failed my ride. He did not understand that I had to do what good floatplane pilots had done since wheels became synonymous with airports, and instrument flight rules, and airlines, and checklists, and floats became the euphemism for “day VFR only.”  We did the MacGyver and improvised. We all had used the de-Havilland Beaver checklist for doing a run-up on floats, because after all it was the same engine and de-Havilland had actually planned for their bush planes to fly for the military and to have checklists, like those used in real airlines. Even the floatplanes had checklists; I believe to satisfy the near military standards of the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests.
       The professional de-Havilland forward-looking approach, however, never caught on with the rest of the bush industry. The rugged and utilitarian Turbo-Beaver, for example, was in 1963 designed ahead of its time. The turbine floatplane did not start showing up on the commercial flight line until 30 years later, even long after the provincial government air services sold theirs off. And when it was parked along side the Beavers and Otters it was considered just another bush plane.
       In about 1966 de-Havilland came out with the Twin Otter, which became an international success with 244 of the original 269 orders going abroad. Airlines like Aero Commuter of Los Angeles ran their Twin Otters like mini-airliners and trained their pilots to suit IFR airline requirements. Even today, airlines like Aero Contractors and Air Logan expect airline performance out of their pilots and crew. But, the Canadian Twin Otters quickly became bush planes and the pilots were expected to be bush pilots. They flew in IMC using visual contact approaches and feel for the ground descents in below minimums weather. These bush operators often threw the checklists out the window with little regard for SOPs or formal procedural training.
       But, with the large investments required to replace aged aircraft in the bush fleet, the philosophy is set to change. Viking Air and Wipaire rebuild and refit Turbo-Beavers with gross weight increase kits, updated engines, full modern IFR capabilities and amphibious floats, making them into incredibly versatile vehicles for the new air services. These million dollar machines are not the bush planes of the past. They may fit comfortably on the dock beside the Beavers and Otters, but they can be dispatched to pick up international clients stepping down off their Gulfstream-V, and flown straight to the resort conference center 200 miles away. The new Turbo-Beavers are the Cinderella’s of the bush planes.
       If the Turbo-Beaver is the Cinderella of the ball, then the Otter is the ugly sister making an appearance of her own. Vazar Aerospace can rebuild and refit an Otter with a modern powerful turbine, increase the payload and completely cloak her with the latest of IFR instrumentation. With their safety and reliability, the Turbine Otter has the ability to make most small air services respectable again .
       How then would you make a Twin Otter any more reliable and safe than she already is? Ask Viking Air and Wipaire, who are providing refits with updated turbines to the Dash -34 or the -135, and adding the capability for amphibious floats and the most modern instrument panels available anywhere. If required you can get GPWS, TCAS, moving map displays, GPS coupled autopilots, strike finders, and color radar, plus all new instrumentation. The Twin Otter has always been the commuter airplane of choice, and she can now continue that role by fully meeting the JARS, the CARS, ICAO, and any other regulatory body that puts demands on the new world air services.
       Even the engineers of de Havilland could never have dreamt about what was to take place in aviation, from the time the Beaver was introduced until the present time of the Dash 8-400 series. The Turbo-Beaver, the Otter, and the Twin Otter were all built for versatility in their roles, but the new technologies have taken these aircraft beyond the mundane to the sublime.
       When the Beaver first came out in the early 50s, my father rode with Stan Wagner for about 30 minutes to get his Beaver checkout. It now takes a solid 5 weeks to get your Dash 8-400 series checkout, including enough checklists to make having a digital recorder wired into your brain worthwhile. If old Stan Wagner had even seen my dad reach for a checklist he would have fired him on the spot. “No pilot of mine will ever use one of those damn sissy checklists. That only proves they don't know shit about the aircraft or how to fly one.”
      When any company has invested a million dollars for a single piece of equipment there is no room for that attitude anymore. The company board members will want to get full utilization out of their investment. If that means flying VFR/IFR, day or night, land or water, then the pilot better be fully prepared for everything machine or nature can throw at them.
       Last but not least the Caravan amphib is the aircraft to beat. New, fast, and unbelievably multipurpose, the amphib Caravan can take you anywhere. The possible markets that this plane can open up are unlimited. The only limit is the imagination of the operator. Just pick up a brochure for any resort holiday and you will see possibilities abounding with airport to resort waterfront transfer capabilities. All you need then is an aircraft, a licence, and the operational ability.

       Safety and ability is what the Virtual Horizon's new web site is all about. The Bush Pilot Company will help operators to find the resources and technology to give them the operational ability to start flying anywhere in the world, safely and efficiently. The Bush Pilot Company can help by fully training not only the pilots, but also the whole crew involved in operating a modern bush plane. If you are looking to either introduce an amphib Caravan, Twin Otter, Turbine Otter, or Turbo-Beaver to your fleet or if you are planning to start a new air service in some untried niche market contact The Bush Pilot Company.
     We have what it takes to insure the safety and value of your investment with on-time operational and pilot training services.

By John S Goulet

Operational Flight Training Services. 
Find out more here.

Independent and Confidential Safety Audits
Find out more here.

 Use the attitude indicator as your guide back to The Bush Pilot Company.

Top of this page.

Operational Flight Training
Safety Audits
Safety Briefing Cards




Last modified on March 05, 2006 .
© Virtual Horizons, 1996.