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Ice Pilots - Buffalo Airways

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Ice Pilots is now on Netflix which features Buffalo Airways, a freight/pax service in the NWT. The hook is that they fly antiquated aircraft such as the C46, DC4 and DC3 in pretty harsh conditions.

 

When you look at the number of accidents they've had (none fatal, fortunately) it makes you wonder why they would continue to jeopardize their crew and business with such a fleet.

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I see buffaloes planes here in the Whitehorse several time each year.

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I'm originally from the N.W.T. Canada, and my Dad was a bush pilot in the North for many years and also knows Buffalo Joe. As much as I love the show, because what true northerner wouldn't, don't believe everything you see on TV, the guy has been running that business for a long time with no fatalities, Mabey a few minor crashes but nothing th write home about.

If you ever get a chance to meet these guys sometime they will tell you it's not as exciting as it shows on TV

 

Cheers

Greg Z

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A few? They tally up almost one a year at this point.

 

Buffalo Airways has nine accidents listed by the Aviation Safety Network, none of which had any fatalities.[39] In addition to the Aviation Safety network, there are two more reported incidents here that were investigated by the Transportation Board of Canada. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is an independent agency that advances transportation safety by investigating occurrences in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation.

  • On 26 June 1994, BFL526, a Douglas C-47A (C-FROD), crashed on approach to Fort Simpson Airport, Northwest Territories due to fuel exhaustion. The aircraft was on a cargo flight fromTrout Lake Airport. There were two crew on board at the time; both were injured and the aircraft was a write-off.[40][41]
  • On 24 July 2001, TANKER602,[42] a Consolidated PBY-5A Canso C-FNJE caught a wing tip in Sitidgi Lake (about 25 nautical miles (46 km; 29 mi) north of Inuvik) while fire fighting and crashed into the lake. Another aircraft landed on the lake and picked up the two crew. The aircraft was pulled out of the water; the engines and other valuable parts removed. The hull, which was left at the lake, was later retrieved by Fairview Aircraft Restorations Society and taken to Fairview, Alberta, where it is undergoing restoration.[42][43][44][45]
  • On 28 August 2002, BFL928, a Douglas C-54E (C-GQIC), landed short of the runway at Diavik Airport. The right wing came off the aircraft, which travelled 1,000 ft (300 m) down the runway. The aircraft caught fire and was a write-off. The two crew escaped with minor injuries.[46][47]
  • On 1 August 2003, Douglas C-54G C-GBSK touched down short of the runway at the Ulu mine strip. The landing gear collapsed and the wings separated from the fuselage. The wings then caught fire and the fuselage veered off the right side of the runway. The four crew were unhurt, but the aircraft was written off.[48][49]
  • On 25 May 2004, BFL326, a loaded C-46D (C-FAVO), was seriously damaged at Yellowknife Airport while taxing for departure. The company reported the tail wheel went off the threshold of runway 09 (now runway 10) while turning to align with the active runway for take-off, sinking into a soft gravel area in a 90° position from centreline. The crew applied power to try and free the stuck aircraft which resulted in a sideways loading of the tailwheel bulkhead at station 720, causing structural failure at the tail wheel to fuselage attachment points as well as buckling of the main fuselage between station 615 and 633. The incident caused the runway to remain closed for about six hours until the aircraft could be repaired sufficiently to allow safe removal. Although the aircraft was substantially damaged, it was subsequently repaired and returned to active service using a section cut-off of a derelict airframe of Everts Air Cargo Express,Fairbanks, Alaska; 42-96578 - N4860V[50][51][52][53][54][55]
  • On 5 January 2006,[56] BFL1405, a Douglas C-54G (C-GXKN), had departed Norman Wells Airport when the number two engine caught fire and stopped. The crew attempted to put out the fire but were not successful. While feathering the number two propeller, number one also feathered, leaving them with only two engines. They returned to Norman Wells and performed an emergency landing, but the aircraft left the runway and ploughed through the snow. The four crew were unhurt, but the aircraft was written off and the nose was later used to repair another C-54. The fire was caused by a fuel leak.[57][58]
  • On 29 December 2006, BFL129, a Douglas C-54A (C-GPSH), suffered a nose gear collapse following a runway excursion while landing on an ice strip at Carat Lake near Jericho Diamond Mine. The aircraft's nose dropped over an embankment at the end of the runway, damaging the nose section. The aircraft was transporting 9,000 l (2,000 imp gal; 2,400 US gal) of diesel in fuel cells, and some of these broke loose, spilling some of the fuel. The nose section, which could not be salvaged, was repaired in July 2007 with the nose section from C-54 C-GXKN.[59][60]
  • On 5 March 2012, BFL1105, a Lockheed L-188A Electra (C-FBAQ), landed at the Yellowknife Airport, but was unable to extend the right main landing gear. The aircraft landed on the left and nose gear and caused substantial damage to the number three and four propellers and wing. The five occupants on board were uninjured.[61]
  • On 9 November 2012, BFL509, a Curtiss C-46A (C-GTXW), landed at Yellowknife Airport and when it rolled to the runway 16/34 intersection, the left main landing gear collapsed. The aircraft then came to rest on the left wing and suffered substantial damage. The aircraft was repaired and returned to service. The cause of the accident was that a hammer, lodged between the inboard drag strut and sliding member, caused the landing gear to collapse.[62][63]
  • On 19 August 2013, BFL168, a Douglas DC-3C (C-GWIR), crashed on return to Yellowknife Airport, Northwest Territories after suffering an engine fire. The aircraft was on a passenger flight from Yellowknife Airport to Hay River Airport. There were 24 people on board the aircraft, of whom three were crew. There were no fatalities, but the aircraft was written off.[64][65] The subsequent investigation determined the cause to be an engine cylinder fatigue crack, propeller feathering pump failure, and overloading of the aircraft.[66]
  • On 25 September 2015, BFL525, a Curtiss C-46A (C-GTXW), diverted to Deline Airport, where it made an emergency gear-up landing. Although the aircraft was written off, the four crew were not injured. The accident is under investigation.[67][68]

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A few? They tally up almost one a year at this point.

 

Clearly you are not from North of 60...Most airlines and cargo ops that far north use aging aircraft, 737-200's with the gravel kits are used in the remote gravel and ice strips and it gets older from there. Even those have incidents:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Air_Flight_6560

 

The north is were aircraft go to perform their last service, a friend of mine that is a school teacher in Arctic Bay on Baffin Island first trip up there was on a 737-200 and when it had an engine problem on the way, they landed and the problem was too great to fix so the aircraft was taken out of service and still sitting up there today. This is why they use older aircraft, easier to write them off.

 

Also that far north hunters are allowed to carry guns onto the 737's with them in the cabin, no metal detectors or security. Walk on and off the aircraft with your guns, no problem at all, different set of rules in that part of the world.

 

If you don't live there I don't see why you would complain about it. Different way of life, if it's not for you don't go there.

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Believe it or not, this accident record isn't terrible for the kind of areas they fly into.

Flying in this part of the world is certainly not for the average pilot, these people that fly the North know exactly what they are getting into and what the risks are otherwise they wouldn't do it.

 

Again, you have to be familiar with the area and the way things are and need to be done to understand.

 

It looks like it is really really dangerous with these old birds they fly, and of course it is somewhat but there isn't many aircraft that can do the things that the C 46,DC 3,DC 4, Electra, etc. Can do in this part of the world for the price, and believe me Joe has a monopoly on parts for these aircraft

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A few? They tally up almost one a year at this point.

 

One of those accidents you mention was during fire-fighting operations... that is quite possibly the most dangerous aerial activity performed these days, and in no way belongs in a list of accidents being used to challenge anyone's safety record.

 

As pointed out by others, the show makes it far more dramatic than it really is. The rather breathless narrator, the cliffhanger cuts to commercials, etc. Buffalo's fleet is quite a bit larger than the few pilots featured on that show.

 

Those classic aircraft end up in places like that partly due to economic concerns - they can stand up, day in and day out, in conditions that would shorten the lifespan of other airframes. Those aircraft that make up a large part of Buffalo's fleet, they might be wearing out, but they were built for that exact sort of service: Rough, unimproved airstrips with little to no navigational aids, in severe weather conditions - and importantly, equipment that can be field-repaired by a mechanic. The mention by Matthew of that 737-200 sitting abandoned on Baffin island because of engine trouble, well, if that were a DC-3 you'd have another engine flown in and swapped out on the tarmac and have that aircraft still earning it's keep.

 

I love the show, personally. I could do without the 'people' drama, but nowhere else are you going to see so much footage of in-service aircraft from a completely different era.

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Modern jets cannot operate in the extremes which the big old radial powered planes see.

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I love the show - not for the soap opera - but the fantastic vintage aircraft you get to see operated. No show like it on TV. 

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I enjoyed watching Ice Pilots NWT.  I'm sure the producers over emphasized the dramatic parts, that's just how reality tv works.  If it was just camera crews following people around, it would be 99% boredom.  Some reality tv shows even create drama just to make it interesting and boost ratings. 

 

What I got out of the show was the extreme climate and harsh operating conditions.  It's amazing that these old piston powered aircraft are still in the air and earning their keep, even more amazing that it is done under extreme cold conditions.  It gave me some insight into the NWT and made me glad that I live in a much milder part of the world.

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