Alaska Bush Pilot—Part 2!

I knew if I was going to make the cut, something had to change.Cameron Livingstone, Alaska Bush Pilot

image-2Last week, we met Cameron Livinstone, a real-life DC, living out his dream of flying the Alaska bush to jumpstart his aviation career. This week, we wrap it up by exploring Cameron’s successes, hopes, dreams . . . and setbacks.

CAP’N AUX: You set out to fly just a summer, but are now staying on for the winter. What compelled you to do so?

CAMERON: They offered me a year round position! I was hired as a seasonal employee. And when they offered me the position, I started to think about the best choice for my career. Stay on with this company through the winter and get some really awesome experience, or head back to Phoenix and instruct again. Having the option of flying the Caravan and Navajo, both single pilot, IFR, day and night, was another big draw to staying up here. I also really like the company, the people, the flying, and Southeast. 

I love moving to a new place, meeting new people, discovering a new part of the world.

CAP’N AUX: I know you have a fiancée. What are the challenges for you two with your new adventure?

CAMERON: Well, we decided to break up. She had a really difficult time with the distance, and I couldn’t convince her to move up here. So after lots of long conversations, and a lot of messy details that I will spare from you, we concluded that it was best to split up and go our separate ways.

CAP’N AUX: What are your long-term goals?

I wish I knew. Ha. Every time I think I have it figured out, something in me changes. There are so many cool aviation jobs out there, and I want to do them all! So for now, I’m totally open to any great sounding opportunities that may come my way. 

CAP’N AUX: Do you wish to fly for the airlines?

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Land of the Midnight Sun!

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The magnificent Juneau Icefield.

CAMERON: I think, eventually, yes. I’m in no rush to get to the regionals right now. I have been strongly considering an expat life at an airline somewhere exciting, where wages are fair. I’m not gonna turn this into a regional bashing piece, but a lot will need to change with them before I would consider a job with a US regional. I think eventually, I would really like to work for a legacy, big cargo, or corporate. Basically, a really big jet, flying international, would be awesome.

CAP’N AUX: Do you have any regrets, or did you have any apprehensions, about moving to AK?

CAMERON: I knew it would be tough on my relationship. And it turned out it was too tough. I suppose that’s my only regret. Other than that, I love it up here. I love moving to a new place, meeting new people, discovering a new part of the world. I didn’t have a place to live when I moved up here. That was a big source of apprehension! I actually didn’t get a place to live until I was in Juneau for a little over a week. I ended up living on a boat with a guy that I met on couchsurfing! Made a good friend through that. And then after working super hard to find a place to live in Juneau, my company decided to send me up to Skagway for the Summer. So all that hard work was for naught. Oh well. Ha.

Office View? The Best of the Best!

CAP’N AUX: What tips and advice do you have for the cheechacko AK pilot?

CAMERON: Work hard, have a good attitude, and stick with it! I realized early on, that the weather was always bad. sometimes, it was just kinda bad. Sometimes it was really bad. But I couldn’t tell the difference between kinda bad and really bad. It all just seemed awful. It didn’t take long before I started to dread low weather days. I knew if I was going to make the cut, something had to change. So I figured if dispatch was comfortable sending me out, I should learn to be comfortable flying. I was stressed on a lot of days. But eventually the kinda bad days started to seem not so bad. Even the really bad days started to get easier.

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On a Gustavus run. Home to my good friend, the late Steve Wilson, to whom The Last Bush Pilots is dedicated.

Some people are gonna push you to fly when you’re not comfortable.

I was able to find my personal weather minimums fairly quickly as well. Also, talk weather with everyone you can. Figure out who is honest about the weather, and who is macho about it. Some guys will say it’s great out, when really, no one should be flying. Other guys will tell you it’s awful when it’s not all that bad. Some people are gonna try to push you to fly when you’re not comfortable, figure out who those people are, and stick to your guns with them. Some people have a great grasp on the weather, and call it like it is. Figure out who they are, and listen to them.

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Southeastern Exposure: the view doesn’t suck!

I can see a glacier from my living room window, and have world class hiking, fishing, camping, sightseeing, and skiing right outside my front door.

CAP’N AUX: What is your favorite thing about AK or flying in AK? Your least favorite?

image-4CAMERON: Man, it’s tough to pick one favorite thing about living and flying in southeast. Actually, being able to live and fly in southeast might be my favorite thing! Ha! But really, every day I find something new and amazing. It’s such a gorgeous place to fly. When the skies are blue and the sun is shining, there’s no better place to be. Living in southeast has been super awesome as well. The other day I drove out the road (literally to the end of the road) and picked like 4 pounds of wild blueberries for a blueberry wheat beer that I’m brewing this weekend. I bike to work everyday, can see a glacier from my living room window, and have world class hiking, fishing, camping, sightseeing, and skiing right outside my front door.

My least favorite part about AK? Definitely shipping costs. Amazon Prime is key to living up here. Free shipping. And maybe second least favorite (only second because I haven’t actually experienced it yet), the darkness. I lived in North Dakota for a lot of winters, and it was dark. But AK is darker. I’m really hoping it isn’t as bad as I’m thinking it will be. But we will see I suppose.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from any companies. Keep calling. Or better yet, show up at their office.

CAP’N AUX: Any advice for those seriously considering a move to fly in AK?

CAMERON: Do it! But be ready for hard work, tough conditions, and great rewards. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back from any companies. Lots of times the people in charge of hiring have more on their plate than just hiring. For example, our DO also flies the line full time, does all the training, lots of the hiring, some of the maintenance, tons of paperwork, ramping, shuffling, logistics, etc.. It can be easy to forget to return your call. Keep calling. Or better yet, show up at their office.

image-10Some people told me to make sure I had a job before I moved up. I think you might be able to show up around the beginning of the season and find a job. We had one guy wash out, all of the other operators had people wash out. We were in a decent spot, and didn’t need pilots. But lots of the other operators were left scrambling right as the busy season was starting to pick up. It’s kind of a gamble to go that route, but it might pay off big.

Also, anyone can get in contact with me if they have any more questions. I’d be more than happy to answer whatever I can!

CAP’N AUX: Cameron, thank you for your time, stories and great advice!

LBP Cover Signature Hi

In my novel The Last Bush Pilots, DC Alva and Allen Foley risk everything to launch their airline careers by flying the Alaska bush. But if Alaska doesn’t beat them, their friendship may. This novel made Amazon Top 100 Breakthrough novels, 2013! https://www.createspace.com/4053153

Great stuff by Cameron, a real-life DC living out his Alaska dream and working his way up the aviation food chain, toward that airliner Holy Grail! I have to say, many of Cameron’s answers were somewhat sobering. YES, there are serious sacrifices to pursue this profession. You may not be cut out for it—or your future intended spouse may not. Whether you choose to pursue an adventure in Alaska or elsewhere, this scenario is typical for the time-building pilot: you’ve gotta go where the jobs are. There’s a lotta “dues paying” in this business!

 But, as I always say: You’re getting PAID to FLY!

How many people in the world can say that?

STAY ADVENTUROUS, MY FRIENDS!

If you have any further questions for Cameron, he can be contacted via email at:

clivings87@gmail.com

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