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Pilot Career Options?

     I am currently pursuing a Professional Pilot degree in college and am trying to figure out what all jobs are out there. I've already figured out that I'm not really interested in the airlines. I enjoy nature a lot and would like to find some way to combine aviation and nature in a job. Air tour is something that interests me. I also think bush flying would be cool although I've heard that involves having some ability to fix things when they break which I am inherently bad at. I also don't know much about outdoor survival. I believe I've heard that there are people that fly around counting animal populations? And I know there are some National Parks that employ pilots, but I don't know if I'm supposed to have some kind of prior experience with environmental sciences to be eligible for things like that? Thanks!

- Shelby
23 Replies
Fish and wildlife is an option but many of those pilots are contract. If you have a degree in wildlife management or biologist it would help get your foot in the door. If you take the pilot route you may need in excess of 1000 hours, Commercial or ATP to get started in the business. Ag flying is another option, but it also is hard to get in the business without experience. It will require a burning desire and never give up attitude. Good luck.
I would like to add to the great post by Douglass Mcfall.  We are in Alaska, and do Bush/remote satellite installations.  Satellite is very valuable here and pays well.  Some of our installers have aircraft, a very useful asset in a land with vast distances and few roads.  Of course, there are other remote service jobs where an aircraft would be equally useful. You could work for a Part 135 operator with sufficient experience, including Alaska time, and be doing a wide variety of interesting and satisfying flying.  Insurers like to see flight training and experience acquired in Alaska, or at least experience in similar Lower-48 conditions, such as mountain flying.  Operators do like to see aircraft maintenance experience in the form of an A&P license, but it isn't a requirement.  Aircraft ownership and flying at every opportunity could help you build hours and you could use the plane for service work in Alaska.  Ownership would of necessity help you learn about aircraft maintenance.  Remember, life goes on in the winter, so Alaskans learn how to keep flying when it is cold, including dressing right, carrying proper survival gear, and knowing what to do in a survival situation. A tracking device should be on board for every flight.  A part of winter flying is learning how to keep the plane ready to go when it is parked outside, as most are.  Best wishes in following your dreams.
Hello Shelby

You may want to rethink the airlines.

After flying in the military I spent 33 Yrs with a major airline.  I usually worked about 3 days a week and with careful trip bidding I could often cobble together 6 days off.  I would think that these days off would allow plenty of time off for bush flying.  Also you could, when working, visit a few museums that might interest you.  Rod
As previously posted, many state departments of natural resources use aircraft for their missions in wildlife management and law enforcement. Some states use contractors and some operate their own fleet. You might want to look at state and federal opportunities in that area.

Another possible place to start would be state or federal fire patrol contractors. It’s seasonal work, but doesn’t usually require a lot of experience. Back in the day, I built some flight hours doing that.

The old standbys are flight instruction, banner towing, glider towing and skydiving to get that first 1500 hours or so.

Good luck!
I have two friends who fly for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and another who flies for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, combining careers in wildlife management or fish & game law enforcement with their love of flying. They are all expert bush pilots, flying everything from Piper Super Cubs to De Havilland Beavers, all tail draggers or float planes of course.
There are many options other than becoming an airline pilot, but it requires more efforts getting into a smaller nitche. As is, the industry is in a real crisis due to this plandemic. Some say that it would recover so I would pursue the career and then navigate it accordingly. It is an awesome thing being able to fly, so just for that it's worth it if you're able to invest the time and money especially if you get to enjoy it.