Bush Planes

Where ground transportation is inadequate, and in some cases does not exist at all, companies use bush planes for passenger and freight transportation.  Bush planes are popular in remote locations, such as the Alaskan tundra, northern Canada, and the Australian outback, as well as many locations in Africa.  There are many varieties of bush planes, but most of them have common characteristics.

Characteristics Common to Bush Planes

The features of bush planes depend completely on the remote area they serve.  For those that must often land in water or snow, such as Alaska, Canada and Russia, the planes are fitted with floats or skis to make landing easier.  Almost all bush planes have high wings to make loading cargo easier and to improve downward visibility.  In order to reduce weight and drag, bush planes have conventional landing gear, consisting of two large main wheels and one small rear wheel.  Large, low-pressure tires are common on bush planes that must take off or land on unfinished or broken ground, and the planes offer short runway requirements as well, to allow for shorter ground rolls in areas with little clearance.


Originally, bush planes were used in Canada in order to explore and develop the country, as well as for fire patrol and aerial photography.  The first bush pilot in Alaska was Carl Ben Eielson, an aviator during World War I who was originally from North Dakota.  He moved to Alaska after the war, working as a math and science teacher.  Eielson persuaded several citizens to invest in a Curtiss JN-4, which he used to transport passengers between settlements before obtaining an airmail contract to deliver mail between Fairbanks and McGrath in 1924.

Forest and Emergency Services

In addition to transporting passengers and cargo in remote areas, bush planes also provide important forest and emergency services.  In many areas, bush pilots assist in spotting forest fires, rescuing those stranded in the wilderness and, on occasion, controlling wildlife.  Some bush pilots work with the government to spot growing sites of illegal drugs as well.

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