Watching television is not one of my favorite things. Most shows just annoy me and I haven’t had cable TV in years. Sure, I watch stuff on Hulu and Netflix, but that is about it. Most of what is out there is poorly done reality TV, with bad plots and worst acting. Recently someone  started talking to me about this show “Ice Pilots” that was in production and on the air in Canada and at first I wasn’t sure what to think.

I was told the show  takes place way up north in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada and follows the company, Buffalo Airways, as they fly around the great white and cold north. Hmm, okay — keep talking. Then I was told that they use DC-3, DC-4, C-46, L-188 Electra and some other odds and ends planes –that got my attention. They are also the only airline in North America that flies scheduled flights for passengers using a DC-3 — oh heck yes.


The owner, Buffalo Joe, is one cool dude. If you had to create a personality of someone who owns a charter airline using a bunch of old planes, Joe would be that guy. I think Joe’s statement, “If you really want to experience flight in this life, you really have to strap a DC-3 to your ass, let the wings extend out, and that’s the closest thing you’ll come to a human flying,” really says it all.

That is a Buffalo Airways DC-3 on the left and C-46 on the right. Both rock!

That is a Buffalo Airways DC-3 on the left and C-46 on the right. Both rock!

To make a successful show takes more than a few old planes flying around. Sure that could satisfy us airplane nerds, but the show needs a wider audience to stay on the air. I had the opportunity to preview the entire first season (the first two seasons have already aired in Canada, they are currently working on their third) and I asked my good friend Ben and girlfriend Amy to watch it with me to get their non-airplane-nerd opinions.

Ben likes to watch reality TV shows and has a few favorites that take place up north. He watches Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch and Alaska State Troopers and was a little skeptical of another “up north” show. He thinks airplanes are pretty cool, but is not an airplane geek like most of us.

“I thought it was going to be yet another show about people doing stuff in up north, but David made me try it out,” Ben explained to me. He was happy I made him watch it for after watching a few episodes he wanted to keep on watching. “They set up the show so you do not have to be a plane nut to watch it. There are some interpersonal relationship stuff thrown in, but it doesn’t distract from the from the flying too much.”

Amy on the other hand really isn’t a plane fan. It took a bit more convincing to make her watch Ice Pilots (I had to promise to watch Glee, which I have been refusing to do). “It’s pretty absorbing and well-made.  Even knowing nothing about airplanes, I was drawn into the stories of the employees of Buffalo Airways.”

Hopefully others will enjoy this show and it will take off (heh, pun intended). Check it out this Friday  on the National Geographic Channel and let me know what you think.

DC3 & C-46 Photos by Jason Pineau

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
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Yee Haw!

My thoughts exactly. What a frek’n trip right?


Shawn Connelly

Looks a lot like Flying Wild Alaska. We’ll have to give it a look and compare.

There are similarities, but I think the big difference are the airplanes. For me, having the DC-3, DC-4 and C-46 totally make the show :)


My thoughts exactly, Shawn. I was addicted to Flying Wild Alaska. Hopefully this will fill the gap until the next season of that show. Unbelievable what those guys do.

I also really enjoyed Flying Wild Alaska on Discovery. Ice Pilots NWT actually pre-dates it by a season. But it’s a Canadian show that initially only aired there. I first heard about Ice Pilots when I was at AirVenture in Oshkosh last year. They were there – EAA was helping them in the search for a US network to carry it. It was very well-received at the convention. I look forward to seeing it.

If you want to know more about the Ice Pilots NWT TV series, then you might also want to check out the web site that was designed to complement the series. I wrote many of the stories for the web site, including items about the vintage aircraft featured on the series, as well as profiles on the legendary bush pilots flying in Canada’s north.

Northern Canada and Alaska have been the inspiration of many great adventure stories over the years. The history of aviation in the far North is filled with great heroes and scoundrels and timeless tales of survival and tragedy — and great humour. Shows like Ice Pilots NWT bring those stories to life and remind us that the adventure continues into the modern age.

Buffalo Joe, the owner of Buffalo Airways, is one of those larger than life characters that a fiction writer would be hard pressed to invent. Joe and his maverick airline carry on the tradition of adventure and self reliance and that defines the North and its people – in both the USA and Canada.

I am very pleased that American audiences will now be finally able to view the series, complements of National Geographic.

Here is the link to the web site I mentioned:

Enjoy the adventure…

Wayne Melvin, writer and historian, Salt Spring Island, Canada

Thanks Wayne! I think the website is amazing and really allows fans to connect with the people and the history of the aircraft.


Doctor Smith

That’s Awesome – I’d be ALL over that. In fact, I’m getting the urge to vacation up there from this –

More information also at National Geographic Channel’s site:

Season 2 of Flying Wild Alaska is filming now according to a recent interview of Ariel on Craig Ferguson’s show, no word on when they will be aired.

I first learned of Buffalo airways while watching “The Aviators” series on PBS: where they interviewed Mikey of Buffalo Airways at EAA Oshkosh…he is in the first segment of this episode:

Later when I was looking at the Just Planes – world air routes site and found that they did a flight deck DVD with Buffalo flying in the C-46 and DC-4. Here’s the info:
and a youtube video with some footage from the DVD:

Ice pilots looks to be a good show, well worth watching for aviation enthusiasts. Unfortunately I don’t get the Nat Geo channel…anyone know where to watch full episodes online? They don’t seem to have any on youtube or HULU.

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