Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Ice Pilots ready for Season Two takeoff
I'm back visiting the mad men and women of Ice Pilots, NWT, the most successful Canadian debut ever on History Television. The series opened last year to 459,000 viewers. It is currently scheduled to take off for a second season January 5, although--MAYDAY!--that is the date of the World Junior Hockey Championships final. If this is another Canada/USA rematch, Ice Pilots will be flying straight into a buzz saw.
This likely would not deter "Buffalo" Joe McBryan, the cantankerous bush pilot behind Buffalo Air. His fleet of vintage DC3s, DC4 and other propeller aircraft--some dating back to WWII--are a big part of the fascination with this series.
Along with a few journalists and a full load of regular passengers, I had an opportunity to fly the friendly skies over Great Slave Lake Sunday night in a DC3. McBryan, who began Buffalo Air with one plane in 1970, lifts that baby into the air and drops it down again like the runway was a giant pillow.
He and son Mikey and daughter Kathy, along with other family members and pilots (including fan fave Scotty Blue) made the trek to Osh Kosh, Wisc., last summer in one of their three air worthy DC3s. The gang were treated like rock stars at the annual air show, which was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the aircraft, which dates back to 1935.
Most of the other DC3s at the airshow are museum pieces or hobby birds. The Buffalo Air machine is an everyday passenger plane. Visiting propheads were astounded.
The bird the McBryans flew the other night saw service in WWII, and was apparently in on the 11th wave into Normandy. McBryan's hanger full of vintage aircraft (as well as a few cool Mercs from the '40s) draws admiring visitors to Yellowknife year long. Some come with stats and serial numbers, identifying the plans and telling the hosts more about the history of these aircraft than they already knew. According to McBryan, one of his DC4s flew monkeys out of Africa that were used in the testing of insulin in the '40s.
The visit to Osh Kosh will be one of the later episodes this season. Executive producer David Gullison says the episode is a hoot, with McBryan loading his family into the DC3 to head to the air show like most families would load into a station wagon or van for a family vacation.
The good news for fans of this series is that a third season has already been ordered and is in production, WJHC's be damned.