Frequently Asked Questions

What do Fish & Wildlife pilots do?
How many pilots and aircraft does the Fish & Wildlife have?
What qualifications do Fish & Wildlife pilots have?
Where are Fish & Wildlife pilots stationed?
Are Fish & Wildlife pilots always gone from home?
Does the pilot always fly alone?
How do I get a job in Fish & Wildlife aviation?

 

 

 

What do Fish & Wildlife pilots do?
Most of the Fish & Wildlife pilots have another specialty, either as a biologist or law enforcement officer, but perform many of their duties from the air. The Service does have some pilots whose main specialty is aviation.  Service missions include low level wildlife surveys (primarily waterfowl and large mammals), radio tracking surveys, law enforcement surveillance flights, fire reconnaissance flights, and camp logistics. The North American Breeding Pair survey has been conducted by the Service in Alaska, the central prairies of the U.S., and Canada since 1955. It is the longest duration most extensive survey of its kind in the world. Each year Service biologist/pilots and observers fly 70,000 miles of low level (150 feet above the ground) transect routes counting waterfowl observed within a 400 meter strip below the aircraft. The population information derived from this survey is used by the Service to manage waterfowl in North America. The Service is al ways looking at new and innovative ways to use aviation to accomplish the Fish & Wildlife missions.

 

 

How many pilots and aircraft does the Fish & Wildlife have?
Fish & Wildlife aviation has about 62 pilots and 56 aircraft stationed throughout the United States and Alaska, and Puerto Rico flying a total of about 10,000 hours per year. The Service also utilizes the aviation resources of 170 commercial vendors nationwide flying Service employees an additional 8,000 hours annually supporting Service missions. Most of our aircraft are single engine high-wing aircraft (Cessna 182, 185, 206's, Piper PA-18's, and Aviat Huskies), some on wheels or skiis, while others are on amphibious floats. The Service has a few multiengine airplanes (Partanavia P68's), one helicopter (Bell 206) and one single engine turbine Beaver on amphibious floats.

 

 

What qualifications do Fish & Wildlife pilots have?
The average hour level for our pilots is about 5000 hours, however, the basic initial entry requirement is 500 hours, a commercial and instrument rating, and a class two medical certificate. A few of the Service pilots were trained in the military but many have a civilian aviation background and a degree in biology or special training in law enforcement. A love of nature and a desire to have an impact on our ecology coupled with skills in aviation are the winning combination of the Fish & Wildlife Service pilot.


 

Where are Fish & Wildlife pilots stationed?
Pilots and aircraft are stationed in various places depending on the needs of the Service.

West Coast                             West and Midwest                            Northeast
    Portland, Oregon                       Lewistown, Montana                          Bangor, Maine
    Corvallis, Oregon                      Bismarck, North Dakota                     Laurel, Maryland
    Klamath Falls, Oregon               Madison, South Dakota
    Napa, California                        Minneapolis, Minnesota
                                                     Denver, Colorado
                                                     Albuquerque, New Mexico

Southeast                                Alaska
    Atlanta, Georgia                        Kotzebue
    Nashville, Tennessee                 Selawik
    Slidell, Louisiana                       Nome
    Lafayette, Louisiana                  Arctic Village
    Boqueron, Puerto Rico             Gelena
                                                    Fairbanks
                                                    Bethel
                                                    Dillingham
                                                    Anchorage
                                                    Solotna
                                                    Kodiak
                                                    Juneau

 

 

 

Are Fish & Wildlife pilots always gone from home?
Some pilots are home most every night, while others are gone for several months out of the year; this depends on the type of work the pilot is involved with. While away from home, some nights are spent in a tent but most of the time the aircraft is secured at an airport and the pilot is in a motel.

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Does the pilot always fly alone?
Some missions require only a pilot due to the nature of the mission and weight considerations. Many missions demand an observer to assist in the gathering of data. Computers are used to store the data but people are still required to input that information. Our biologist/pilots and observers are able to identify over 30 different waterfowl species. It takes a trained eye to identify different species while flying at 80 to 90 miles per hour 200 feet above the water. Technological advances have been made in photography to aid in the counting of large groups of waterfowl but it takes a trained observer or pilot to distinguish species.

 

 

How do I get a job in Fish & Wildlife aviation?
The Fish & Wildlife is a US Government agency under the Department of The Interior. All hiring is done through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Openings in the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) are listed on the OPM web site: http://jobsearch.usajobs.opm.gov/index.asp or the FWS jobs web site: http://jobs.fws.gov/