Buffalo Airways

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Buffalo Airways
Buffalo Logo.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded 13 May 1970
Hubs Yellowknife Airport
Secondary hubs Hay River/Merlyn Carter Airport
Fleet size 56 + 3[1]
Parent company Buffalo Airways Limited
Headquarters Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada
Key people Joe McBryan (founder & president)
Website http://www.buffaloairways.com/
"Buffalo Joe"

Buffalo Airways is a family-run airline based in Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada established in 1970 by Joe McBryan, also known as "Buffalo Joe". It operates scheduled passenger, charter passenger, charter cargo, firefighting and fuel services. Its main base is at Yellowknife Airport (CYZF) with two other bases at Hay River/Merlyn Carter Airport (CYHY) and Red Deer Regional Airport (CYQF). The Red Deer base is the main storage and maintenance facility.[2] The airline was also the subject of the History television reality series Ice Pilots NWT.

Clothing company, television show and media[edit]

In 2007, Buffalo Airways began producing a clothing line that included t-shirts, hoodies and hats. With the introduction of the Canwest Global, now Shaw Media, television show Ice Pilots NWT, Buffalo has expanded its clothing company to feature over 30 products and launched a full service product website called BuffaloAirWear.com. The show, which is produced by Omnifilm Entertainment and shown on History, features the day-to-day operations at Buffalo Airways.[3][4]

Buffalo Airways C-46A at Norman Wells Airport
Buffalo Airways Fleet Canuck in Yellowknife
Yellowknife base of Buffalo Air

In 2011, Buffalo Airways was involved in a recreation of the historic Dam Busters raids of World War II, flying the mission, with their own plane and pilots. Buffalo dropped an inert reproduction of the 'Upkeep' bouncing bomb from their Douglas DC-4. The project was documented in the television show Dambusters Fly Again in Canada, Dambusters: Building the Bouncing Bomb in the UK, and Nova season 39 episode "Bombing Hitler's Dams" in the US. A behind-the-scenes look was also filmed in the Ice Pilots NWT season 3 episode 2 show "Dambusters".[5][6][7][8][9][10]

On 27 July 2012, Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of Iron Maiden, flew up from Edmonton to Yellowknife with Buffalo Airways. On July 28, Dickinson, who holds an Airline Transport Pilot Licence, flew a Douglas DC-3 to Yellowknife and spent a day as a guest star for a season five episode.[11]

Buffalo Air Express[edit]

Buffalo also operates a courier service as Buffalo Air Express which started in 1982-1983. It offers service throughout the Northwest Territories (NWT) and Northern Alberta. In association with Global Interline Network it can ship around the world from bases in Yellowknife, Edmonton and Hay River.[12][13]


The first DC-3 bought by "Buffalo Joe"
Buffalo Airways DC-4 unloading at Cambridge Bay Airport

Buffalo owns several waterbombers which are available throughout the year for forest fires. These aircraft include a specially converted Canso and a C-54/DC-4. The C-54/DC-4 carries an external tank that can hold 20,000 lb (9,100 kg) of fire retardant and the Canso has two 800 imp gal (3,600 l; 960 US gal). As part of the airline's wildfire suppression work, it operates the Canadair CL-215 for the Government of the Northwest Territories. The CL-215 holds 12,000 pounds (5,400 kg) in two tanks which are filled in about ten seconds while skimming over a lake. The waterbombers are assisted by smaller aircraft, such as the Beech 95, known as "birddogs".[14][15][16][17]

Buffalo has purchased Lockheed Electra aircraft, and converted them to aerial water bombers. The new turboprops offer greater efficiency than older radial piston powered DC-4s which the airline has used. Possession of these newer turboprop Electras will allow Buffalo to tender for new firefighting contracts with the Canadian government.[citation needed]

Buffalo School of Aviation[edit]

Buffalo's aviation school offers an aircraft maintenance engineer program and several other courses. According to Transport Canada listings they have three aircraft, two are single-engine fixed wing, an Aeronca Champion and a Fleet Canuck, the third a helicopter is a Robinson R22. The Buffalo website also lists a Bell 206 helicopter and a Beech 90 King Air.[1][18]


The airline operates scheduled passenger services between Hay River and Yellowknife. Scheduled cargo services transport supplies from Yellowknife to Deline, Fort Good Hope, Norman Wells, and Tulita under contract with the Government of the Northwest Territories. The service also includes an airport shuttle and a medical transfer bus. Buffalo also offers charters on their passenger aircraft across Canada and also offers cargo charters.[19] In 2011 Buffalo Airways was contracted to carry fuel and sleds between Resolute and Alert, as seen on Ice Pilots NWT.


As of 1 January 2014, the Buffalo Airways fleet numbered 56[1] and the Buffalo School of Aviation 3,[1] consisting of the following aircraft registered with Transport Canada:

Buffalo Airways Fleet
Aircraft No. of Aircraft Notes
Aeronca Champion 1 Buffalo School of Aviation
Beechcraft Baron 2 bird dog, used to spot fires and guide waterbombers[20] C-FLUX
Beechcraft Travel Air 3 bird dog
Beechcraft King Air 4
Canadair CL-215 8 waterbombers, C-GNCS, C-FAYN, C-FAYU, C-GSCX, C-GPBD, C-GBYU, C-GDHN, C-GDKW all in use.
Cessna 185 1
Cessna 310 1
Convair CV-240 1
Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando 3 Cargo, C-FAVO in flying condition. C-GTPO used for parts at Yellowknife. C-GTXW was w/o at Deline 25/9/2015.
Douglas C-54 Skymaster 13 Cargo, waterbombers
Douglas C-47 Skytrain 2 Passenger/cargo/combi. Wheels and wheel skis, C-FCUE in use.
Douglas DC-3 10 Passenger/cargo/combi. Wheels and wheel skis, C-GPNR, G-GWZS, C-GJKM and C-FLFR in use.
Douglas DC-6 1 Cargo
Fleet 80 Canuck 1 Buffalo School of Aviation, aircraft is hanging from ceiling in Yellowknife hangar
Aero Commander 690C 1
Lockheed L-188 Electra 6 Cargo, two are ex-Reeve Aleutian Airways, two are ex Amerer Air, one is an ex Ansett Australia and one is former Atlantic Airlines aircraft. The ex-Reeve aircraft were owned by Atlantic Airlines as well. One of the L-188's was converted into an air tanker and was named "Tanker 416". Joe recently flew YIP where he plans on getting all four ex Zantop examples airworthy. N286F was ferried to Keystone Airpark on September 10, 2014 where it will undergo further checks. C-GZFE and C-GXFC in use as freighters, C-FIJX in use as air tanker. C-GLBA and C-FBAQ are at CYQF awaiting conversion to become air tankers.
Lockheed P-3 Orion 1 waterbomber, ex Aero Union, purchased 2014 and moved to Hay River. N9922AU
Noorduyn Norseman 1 Private aircraft, C-FSAN
Robinson R22 Beta 1 Buffalo School of Aviation, helicopter

KG330 (C-GWZS)[edit]

This Buffalo Airways DC-3 flew on D-Day dropping paratroopers over Normandy as part of 512 Squadron. KG330 left RAF Broadwell for Operation Tonga at precisely 23:15. It would have been part of 'C' flight as it crossed the English Channel towards its drop zone. The exact location for the drop was 3 mi (4.8 km) inland between Cabourg and Ouistreham just north of the heavily defended city of Caen. It would be dropping the 9th Parachute Battalion as part of the 6th Airborne Division. The paratroopers it was dropping were sent to destroy a heavy coastal battery and to position themselves on the canal between Caen and the port at Ouistreham. The coastal defence had earlier been successfully bombed by 100 Avro Lancaster bombers of RAF Bomber Command. The visibility is said to have been good, no casualties were reported and the aircraft returned back to base at 03:35.[21][22][23]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Buffalo Airways has nine accidents listed by the Aviation Safety Network, none of which had any fatalities.[24]

  • On 26 June 1994, Flight 526, 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 from Trout Lake Airport. There were two crew on board at the time and both were injured and the aircraft was a write-off.[25][26]
  • On 24 July 2001, Consolidated PBY-5A Canso C-FNJE ("Tanker 702") 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.[27][28][29][30]
  • On 28 August 2002, Flight 928, 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.[31][32]
  • On 1 or 2 August 2003, Douglas C-54G C-GBSK touched down short of the runway at the Uli 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.[33][34]
  • On 5 or 6 January 2006, Flight 1405, a Douglas C-54G (C-GXKN), had departed Norman Wells Airport when the number 2 engine caught fire and stopped. The crew attempted to put out the fire but were not successful. While feathering the number 2 propeller, number 1 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.[35][36]
  • On 29 December 2006, Flight 129, a Douglas C-54A (C-GPSH), suffered a nose gear collapse following a runway excursion while landing at Carat Lake. The aircraft's nose dropped over an embankment at the end of the runway, damaging the nose section. The aircraft was transporting 9000 liters 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.[37][38]
  • On 9 November 2012, Flight 509, 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.[39][40]
  • On 19 August 2013, Flight 168, 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.[41][42] The subsequent investigation determined the cause to be an engine cylinder fatigue crack, propeller feathering pump failure, and overloading of the aircraft.[43]
  • On 25 September 2015, Curtiss C-46A C-GTXW diverted to Deline Airport, where it made an emergency gear-up landing. Although the aircraft was substantially damaged, the four crew were not injured. The accident is under investigation.[44]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Canadian Civil Aircraft Register search, using "Buffalo Airways" or "Buffalo School of Aviation" as the search parameter under "Owner Name". Search conducted 18 January 2014.
  2. ^ Airport gets shot of reality
  3. ^ BuffaloAirWear.com
  4. ^ Ice Pilots NWT
  5. ^ History Television, Dambusters Fly Again (accessed 2011 August)
  6. ^ The Telegraph (London), "The day the Dam Busters returned... in Canada", Tom Chivers, 2 May 2011 (accessed 2011 August)
  7. ^ EAA, "'Ice Pilots' Help Re-Create 'Dambusters'", Hal Bryan, 5 May 2011 (accessed 2011 August)
  8. ^ Channel 4, "Dambusters: Building the Bouncing Bomb" (accessed 2011 August)
  9. ^ PBS, WGBH, Nova, "Bombing Hitler's Dams". Retrieved: 12 January 2012
  10. ^ History Television, Ice Pilots NWT: Season 3, Episode 2: Dambusters (accessed 2011-11-11)
  11. ^ A maiden voyage for rock star
  12. ^ Buffalo Air Express
  13. ^ Buffalo Air Express at Buffalo Airways
  14. ^ Fire Suppression
  15. ^ Douglas DC-4 Tankers
  16. ^ Consonlidated Vultee PBY-5A Canso
  17. ^ Canadair CL-215
  18. ^ Buffalo School of Aviation
  19. ^ "Passenger Service". Buffalo Airways. 
  20. ^ The Evoloution of Waterbombing
  21. ^ Buffalo aircraft a veteran of D-Day
  22. ^ Mikey McBryan makes D-Day jump out of Buffalo Air DC-3
  23. ^ Young reporter: D Day Dakota
  24. ^ "Aviation Safety Network listing for Buffalo Airways". Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  25. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  26. ^ CADORS report for Buffalo Air (BFL526)
  27. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  28. ^ Save the Canso
  29. ^ Canso restoration coming along well
  30. ^ CADORS report for Buffalo Air (Tanker 702)
  31. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  32. ^ CADORS report for Buffalo Air (BFL928)
  33. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  34. ^ CADORS report for Buffalo Air (C-GBSK)
  35. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  36. ^ CADORS report for Buffalo Air (BFL1405)
  37. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  38. ^ CADORS report for Buffalo Air (BFL129)
  39. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  40. ^ CADORS report for Buffalo Air (BFL509)
  41. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network
  42. ^ CADORS report for Buffalo Air (BFL168)
  43. ^ http://www.bst-tsb.gc.ca/eng/rapports-reports/aviation/2013/a13w0120/a13w0120.pdf
  44. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network

External links[edit]