We look at commercial aviation today, and we have to wonder if this is what Orville and Wilbur had in mind. Airplanes that carry several hundred people and fly halfway around the world without stopping for fuel! Amazing! But I wonder if O&W knew…or even remotely suspected…that aviation would one day be controlled almost entirely by technology, computers, and bureaucrats. I also wonder if they suspected that aviators would one day treat their beloved dream merely as a job like any other job: The endless pursuit of more pay, more benefits, shorter work-times, better working conditions…and powerful unions to make sure they get it. I’m betting those boys would be surprised if they could see what has happened to their legacy. But in defense of the guys and gals up in the front-end of those commercial monsters, it’s my considered opinion that the never-ending river of controls and regulations (and penalties) have forced pilots to be fearful of doing anything that isn’t in the manual; it's my considered opinion that “The Book” and bureaucracy have stolen a pilot’s sense of independence.
But there’s a different aviation arena that offers its own kind of reward and attracts a certain kind of aviator: Bush flying. It has been said that bush flying is more a “state-of-mind” than anything else, and I find that to be true. In the world of bush flying, you’ll see few unions (and none at LewisAire!) demanding higher-this and more-of-that. Instead, you’ll see pilots earning maybe a third of what their commercial peers rake in, yet they're out there well before dawn, in snow or rain, cold or hot, getting that plane loaded and ready for flight. And with a bush flyer, independence isn’t an option, it’s a requirement! He or she will be completely alone out there in the wilderness with that plane and whatever cargo is aboard, and there’s no book to tell them what to do if things go sour.
So why on earth would a pilot choose bush flying over the supposed benefits of commercial flying? I’ll tell you why, and the answer isn’t as simple as you might think: First of all, a bush pilot will not trade his/her independence for any amount of money. While some dreadfully fear a situation that isn’t clearly defined in some manual, the bush pilot thrives on it! Secondly, bush flying isn’t just a “job”, it’s a function that took root somewhere in the heart. A bush pilot knows that people will go hungry if he doesn’t deliver those groceries. Sick people will get sicker without the medicines and supplies piled in the back of that Norseman. People will be sleeping outside or in tents until he or she gets there with those building supplies. Mail will not be delivered unless he or she delivers it. There are no trucks that go where bush pilots go, because in many cases there are no roads; only the bush pilot can deliver those goods or supplies or equipment or people. Bush flying isn’t about tangible rewards; it’s about fulfilling a very personal, crucial need, day after day, and he knows he’s one of damn few who can do it! As for the rewards of bush flying, chat with a fellow commercial pilot who flies for one of the big-city outfits. Ask him or her about one of their average days, and then tell him about one of yours: That you left at dawn because that’s when you felt like leaving; That you took the Norseman because that’s what you felt like flying…OP’s had you scheduled for the DeHavilland, but the Norseman was available and nobody’s gonna bitch about it later on; That you mapped your own route and flew it as you saw fit; That it was just you and your airplane flying over some of the most beautiful scenery on earth; That the people on the other end of the line were so glad to see you, they held a big cookout just for you; That you stopped in at Wuckamuck Pond on the way back home and caught a few gorgeous Rainbow Trout for dinner…and watch the envy on his face! Odds are, his day began when someone else said it began, he flew what he was told to fly and where to fly it and how to fly it, and his day ended where and when someone else said it ended.
That’s why bush pilots would never be anything but bush pilots!