Yellowknife based Buffalo Airways
I have now seen the first three episodes of the new television series Ice Pilots NWT. What a great show! I love this show, and if you love flying, you are guaranteed to also love this show.
Great Show for Pilots and aspiring Pilots!
When I saw the first episode of Ice Pilots NWT, I was hooked. After now seeing the first three episodes, I am a huge fan.
Ice Pilots NWT is a real life documentary about Buffalo Airways located in Yellowknife, North West Territories (NWT). Buffalo Airways operates a fleet of vintage aircraft in the Canadian North.
Mother Nature in Yellowknife
It’s cold at the edge of the Arctic. Very cold. Pilots and aircraft must endure temperatures in the minus 40′s or below! That’s -40 degrees Centigrade. If you think it’s hard on the pilots, imagine what it’s like for the vintage aircraft. It’s an impossible job in a merciless place.
Buffalo Airways owner Joe McBryan and his son Mikey McBryan run the airline in the frozen and unforgiving environment. You get to see new pilot recruits, fresh out of Flight College with 200 hours in the air, try to survive in this harsh place. These new pilots are there for one reason. They want to log some air-time in the historic aircraft that make up Buffalo Air’s vintage fleet.
New Pilot recruits are called ‘Rampies’ as they work on the Ramp to load cargo, clear snow off the wings and log hours as flight attendants. It’s a competitive environment as the Rampies struggle to compete with other fresh pilot recruits for the next coveted co-pilot position in one of the vintage aircrafts.
The seasoned pilots must balance the risk of flying, with the need to keep cargo moving. The weather isn’t the only risk. With an aging fleet of almost extinct aircraft, there are always mechanical problems and equipment failures with the scarce and dwindling supply of spare parts.
An Aging Fleet
One of the best parts about this show is the amazing Aircraft that make up Buffalo Air’s Vintage Fleet. History comes alive, as you ‘share’ cockpit time in these aging flying machines.
The nearly obsolete fleet includes:
- The Douglas DC-3
- The Legendary Douglas DC-4
- Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando
- Lockheed L-188 Electra
Let’s take a look at this vintage fleet of aircraft.
The Douglas DC-3 operated by Buffalo Airways
This huge prop-driven twin engine, tail-dragger was built in 1944.
The DC-3 was designed to take-off and land on grass or dirt strips and will operate on sub-standard runways located in remote regions where runways are not always paved.
The DC-3 may be fitted with skis for landing on ice and snow, and it can operate in frigid temperatures colder than -40 degrees Celsius.
The DC-3 was one of the most reliable and trouble-free aircraft ever built.
The Douglas DC-4 operated by Buffalo Airways
Like the DC-3, the DC-4 was built by Douglas Aircraft Company. Buffalo’s DC-4 came off the line in 1945. Known as ‘The 4′, this four prop. aircraft was much larger than the DC-3, and the DC-4 was originally intended for long-range passenger travel.
Operating the DC-4 in the harsh Yellowknife winters is an extreme challenge for even the best aviators. Now, there are fresh pilot graduates looking to build hours in the DC-4.
Just the sound of the four engines starting up is amazing. In fact, I downloaded a Ring-tone for my mobile phone featuring a DC-4 engine start-up. Now every time my phone rings, I’m reminded of the DC-4.
Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando
Built in 1944, Buffalo Airways’ C-46 is awesome.
The C-46 was a hard-working military transport aircraft. It was used to carry troops, paratroopers and the wounded. It was also featured for hauling light artillery, fuel, ammunition, spare parts and other war supplies.
The Pilots who flew the C-46 often referred to her as “The Whale,” the “Curtiss Calamity,” the “T-Cat,” or more commonly just “Dumbo” after the flying elephant the C-46 resembled.
The C-46 was capable of high altitude and heavy lifting with the powerful twin-engines.
The Lockheed L-188 Electra
Built in 1961, Buffalo Airways’ L-188 Electra is the pride of their fleet.
The L-188 Electra uses four turboprop engines noted for high-performance short-takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities.
Buffalo Airways operates two vintage L-188 Electras. They are used by Buffalo Air for cargo service in Canada’s North and operated from Yellowknife.
The Electras are powered by the original Allison-501 power plants and the airplanes are capable of cruising at a speed of 620kph (390mph) with a range of 3,540 km (2,200 miles).
Don’t miss an Episode
Check out Ice Pilots NWT on History Television. It’s a weekly, hour long, real-life documentary of Pilots flying vintage aircraft in gruelling conditions in the Canadian North. The four aircraft types just described are the back-bone of Buffalo Air’s vintage fleet. If you are a pilot, or student pilot, or aviation enthusiast, you will love following the antics and experiences of these daring pilots.