FlightSeeing.US Logo

Choose from our bundled Airport Briefing packages!
Information Packages and Airstrip Videos

See Florida from a bird's eye view!
  Florida Flying Videos

Choose from our pre-planned packages!
 Flight Planning Assistance

Try out our Virtual FBO!

Royalty-Free Stock Video at Pond5


Welcome to Wingnut's Wild Blue Yonder!

Flying Homepage



the Urban Bush Pilot
By John “Wingnut” Hazlett

Ever wonder whatever happened to the “Bush Pilot” of yesteryear? You know, that grizzled old fart in a tattered hat and denim jacket that could land on a table-top and haul critical supplies into a box canyon during a blizzard?

Well, I suppose those guys are still around in the more remote regions of the globe, but for the most part, the times, they are a changin’. GA airstrips are much more prevalent in most states nowadays, and most of the planes I see in my little part of the world don’t need those 24” tundra tires for anything more than impressing other pilots. Many pilots have never landed on anything other than pavement, and those who have, used mostly manicured grass strips at private resorts and destinations.

But there’s another kind of Bush Pilot who still exists, and there are more of us than you might think.

After all, what IS a Bush Pilot? He’s not the kind of dapper dude you see strutting around the major airports in tie and epuletts, to be sure. He’s not the off-duty doctor with his brand new Mooney Ovation, either. I’m talking about that guy who flies the beaters at the local rental strip with the same level of skill and enthusiasm as he does that brand new Glass Panel Skylane, and goes to unique destinations just for the pure joy of going somewhere.

He knows every strip with food available within a 200 mile radius, and the best times to go there. He can tell you about hidden dips in a small field runway he flew into five years ago, and what kind of reception to expect when you get there. He knows the rental rates for all the local fields, and what kinds of aircraft are available. Furthermore, he’s made sure to get checked out at several of them so that he can choose to rent a variety of planes from different fields in case what he wants isn’t available when he needs it.

This guy loves to take new people up for sightseeing flights, and show them special things that they’d never see any other way. And make no mistake about it, this guy is the leading champion of General Aviation and class E/G airspace. I’ve known these guys to plan entire cross-country outings around uncontrolled airspace, even when it meant adding miles to their routes.

How the Urban Bush Pilot would like to think most people see him
Urban Bush Pilots (UBP’s) love to fly low and slow. They usually stay below 5,000’, and as often as not stay around 1,000’. They fly planes like Skyhawks, Skylanes and Cherokees. They drool over Cubs and Huskies, but rarely can afford them for their own, and these planes aren’t commonly rented at local FBO’s. The Light Sport Aircraft movement was originally intended to appeal to this group, but was soon commandeered by rich doctors and business men who’d lost their medicals and could still afford the $90,000 and up price tags that these planes quickly escalated to. By far, the most common planes of the UBP are the Cessna 172 and the Piper Cherokee, with maybe 5 Skyhawks flying for every 1 Cherokee. I’ve flown both many times, and they are both excellent urban bush planes. I persoanally prefer the Cessnas, because of the high wing and double doors. These make excellent sightseeing planes and land very lightly on short strips.
How most people ACTUALLY see him -- Gabbing endlessly

When I got into flying, I was fortunate enough to study under one of these masters, and the training that I received because of it made a tremendous difference in the way that I still fly today.

I wanted to take the traditional approach to flying, and during ground school I began looking for a very particular type of CFI. I found what I was looking for at a tiny little FBO on an island in Tampa Bay. I would learn in a Cessna 150, with a CFI who had completely restored one from the ground up with his own father, and had a serious flying tradition in his family. Tim could make that tiny plane do anything he wanted, and the fact that he was only about 5’6” tall made it possible for us to do so with full tanks! Although Tim went on to fly chartered twins out of Nantucket later, he clearly loved the little “Sparrowhawk” and was the very embodiment of the UBP.

I learned slow flight from Tim, as well as backward flight in a strong wind. I learned that you can actually stop ON the numbers and not roll past them, and I learned what very strong wind and thermals feel like in a tiny airplane that makes an MG Midget feel roomy. I learned just how dark it really gets out over the ocean on a moonless night, and that the star you see below you might just be a shrimp boat! I learned about spins, bird strikes and engine-out landings in the dark, and many other things that may not be required, but you’ll sure wish you’d learned ‘em if it ever happens to you later on.

Most of all, I learned that you must always be aware of what the plane you are currently in is actually capable of (both good and bad), and respect those limitations. He showed me how to do a preflight so thoroughly that I’ve spotted and identified risky situations many times that have even been missed by mechanics, and have always been grateful for the training that he so generously imparted to me. The techniques that Tim taught me have served me well in situations that I think may have been truly dangerous without them, and for these things I am eternally grateful.

When I was ready to take my practical exam, I graduated to a 172, but that little 150 will always hold a special place in my heart.

So when I got my ticket and began flying others in GA aircraft, I made it a point to emulate those admirable traits. I want to be perceived as a UBP myself, and feel it’s important to champion the cause of the GA enthusiast in a way that makes people who I come into contact with say “Man, those GA pilots are allright!”. I like to visit out-of-the-way strips and enjoy seeing views that are simply not accessible to anyone else.

I invite those who I take up to go out on the flight-line with me before the flight and point out interesting details that may help them understand more about GA flying, or just my own love of this lifestyle. However, I never let them carry on a conversation with me while performing the preflight. This is my ritual and I don’t even let examiners shake me up while performing it. Sometimes it makes them mad, but more often then not they are mildly impressed with the thoroughness.

Many passengers get off just as much as I do on being able to hop in a plane in Tampa, and popping across to the middle of the state for breakfast in Sebring, then being back in Tampa by 9:30 or 10:00 am.. They feel the thrill of coming in for an island landing over water and industrial docks, etc., or in spotting a tiny strip in the middle of hundreds of acres of orange groves and dropping in for a picnic under the Oaks in Wauchula, popping down to Key West for a day of shopping and being back by dinner. These are things I can share with them that change their very perceptions of small airplanes.

While it’s true that the beach may look pretty from ground level, it never looks as good as it does from 700’ up on a perfectly clear day. On one trip from Venice to Peter O’ Knight in Tampa, I saw sharks, dolphin, manatee and schools of tarpon all in the span of two hours!

On a more sober note, it was GA aircraft and UBP’s who flew in the first medical supplies to the hurricane victims during Florida’s most active hurricane season in 2004, and UBP’s who documented the terrible devastation in the Punta Gorda area and over Lake Wales. GA airstrips were utilized by National Guardsmen (who were often UBP’s themselves) in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, too. GA pilots perform searches for lost people and livestock, and provide many other valuable services for which they are rarely recognized. But that’s OK too, because we don’t do it for that. We do it for the love of all that is General Aviation, and we are all Urban Bush Pilots at heart.

The next time someone you know who flies regularly to cool destinations, and is passionate about General Aviation offers to take you aloft, take them up on the offer and see what all the fuss is about. You may just get the bug to get a pilot’s license yourself!

And if that happens, then your pilot will have accomplished the highest calling any UBP can possibly hope for, and inspired your interest in GA flying. Your success and enthusiasm is the highest honor and compliment you could ever bestow upon him.

Don’t just dream – FLY!


Home | Info Packages | Flying Videos | Virtual FBO | Flying | About Us | Contact Us


A Hard Man To Find
Serving the Entire Planet


All content, logos, pictures, and videos are the property of AHMTF
Copyright ©  2009 -
If you have any comments or questions contact webmaster