Bush flying refers to aircraft operations carried out in the bush. Bush flying involves operations in rough terrain where there are often no prepared landing strips or runways, frequently necessitating that bush planes be equipped with abnormally large tires, floats or skis.

Our Museum Library has a number of books related to bush pilots.  If you live locally, come in and have a look at the table display; if you have an interest in the topic, but don’t live near our Museum, you might want to see if these titles are available in your community library:


Pilots of the Purple Twilight is written by Philip Godsell.  The author begins his story “with the Junker that crash landed at Fort Simpson in 1921 and follows the lives of Canada’s first bush flyers, taking readers on a ride through the first three decades of bush flying…”  Included are stories of “lost planes and lost men, mercy flights, hermits and fur traders, prospectors and mounties, as well as the myth of the tropical medicine valley of the Nahannis.”





Peter Boer wrote Bush Pilots ~ Canada’s Wilderness Daredevils.  He recounts stories of adventurers who put their lives in danger to “bring supplies and civilization to isolated Canadian communities.  Some of these include:

Wop May, a WWI ace who traded fire with the infamous Red Baron delivers emergency serum to an isolated village.

Jack Caldwell was unable to pull out of a spin on a test flight and jumped out of his plane, becoming the first Canadian pilot to parachute to safety.


Chuck McAvoy mysteriously disappeared in a remote corner of the NWT ~ 40 years later, geologists discover his remains.

The McAlpine Expedition got lost on the tundra, but survived sub zero temperatures, near starvation and a hike across a desolate expanse of pack ice.”



Picking up the Pieces (Denny McCartney) focusses on McCartney’s life work.  He specialized in the salvage of damaged aircraft, detected what caused them to be damaged, and as an aviation insurance adjuster, provided a detailed report.  This book includes tales of “wreckage rescues off the Arctic ice and tundra, from the remote bush of Canada’s north…”  McCartney writes, “My first big salvage job was Max Ward’s Otter CF-GBY on Baffin Island.  It was the turning point in my career…”  McCartney selects a few tales from his over 800 “prangs” to share with his readers.



J.A. Foster authored The Bush Pilots.  “At the end of WWI, most sensible young men returned to their wives, sweethearts, and jobs.  But what about the others – teenagers, really – whose only job had been flying the Sopwith Camels that took on the likes of The Red Baron?  With war surplus planes available at bargain-basement prices, they did the thing they knew best – they kept on flying.

Canada’s vast land mass, sparse population, and deserted North were perfectly suited for aircraft operations.  The Bush Pilots opened the North.  They explored its farthest reaches, established communications between its isolated settlements, delivered medical supplies and mail and entertained the folks at local fairs.  Barnstormers, inventors, explorers, and daredevils – these men and women became that most Canadian phenomenon: The Bush Pilots.”  This volume is a good pictorial history of this phenomenon.



Bushplanes by Geza Szurovy  includes stories, along with beautiful colour and archival photographs.  “Flying above the treetops in desolate areas is a breathtaking and humbling experience.  If you’re a bush pilot, it’s a daily experience.

Bushplanes examines the duties these aerial workhorses help carry out around the world and the development of the greatest examples that still fly the skies, including deHavilland Beavers and Otters, Piper Cubs, and Stinson Reliants.  Even airworthy examples of Norseman Noorduyns – the granddaddy of modern bushplanes – are included.

Szurovy explains and depicts the range of specialized landing gear used, from pontoons and hulls for lakes and rivers, to skis for frozen tundra and water, and balloon tires for rocky river beds and mountain slopes.”



Bush Planes and Bush Pilots, by Dan McCaffery, “profiles sixteen extraordinary bush planes that have played significant roles in the nation’s history and are now in museums across the land… the overview celebrates a range of planes from 1919 to the present, accompanied by historical and contemporary visuals.  McCaffery also chronicles the intriguing adventures of the men in the cockpit, including First World War ace Wilfrid ‘Wop’ May, who used his bush plane to hunt down Albert Johnson, the infamous Mad Trapper of Rat River…”




“They did it all with floatplanes, those pioneer aviators who flew the west coast of British Columbia.  Their aircraft weren’t always the best performers, and in the early days it was necessary to have a fuel cache en route.  It was also wise to carry an engineer, in case your floats sprang a leak or your engine swallowed a valve.  But the risks of flying a floatplane on the coast were well repaid by the chance to fly into some of the most beautiful places in the world.”  No Numbered Runways, written by Jack Schofield, looks at the floatplane pioneers of the west coast.

“The coastal floatplane industry has always been an industry of entrepreneurs, of pilots and engineers, one group constantly on the alert for flying work, the other employing mechanical ingenuity in a never-ending attempt to keep some clapped out aircraft in the air.  But both are cut from the same cloth; they share an enthusiasm for the ‘romance of flight’ with aviators across the generations.”

In this book Schofield includes some fascinating stories about aviators who “flew for what their licence specified as ‘for hire and reward’.”

** top image credit: CBC