Ice Pilots take off for fifth season

 Ask any domestic producer–five seasons in Canadian television is like 30 on a U.S. channel. Or, as Mikey McBryan says, “It’s Coronation Street long.”
Mikey and his dad “Buffalo” Joe McBryan were in Toronto this week to promote the fifth season premiere of Ice Pilots NWT, which airs Wednesday night at 10 p.m. on History. Based in Yellowknife, the series has been a consistently strong draw on History.
This season should keep viewers hooked. Last winter was the coldest in 22 years in the ‘Knife and Buffalo Air had a hell of a time keeping its fleet of vintage birds thawed out and in the air. Fans will see plenty of the usual nonsense this season–wheel struts snapping off on runways, crew members taking headers off icy wings and the constant search for parts. (Check it all out in the above trailer.)
Mikey was most excited about the planeload of NHLers who came north this season for a charity game against Buffalo Air crew members. One of his favourite moments from the 65 episodes they’ve shot occurs this season when one of the newer pilots–Jeff Schroeder–tells NHLer Grant Clitsome he’s from Winnipeg. “I play for Winnipeg,” says Clitsome. Says an unimpressed Schreoder, “I hate your guys new logo.”
“Everyone else is kissing ass and thrilled to be hanging with hockey players and the captain of the plane just couldn’t care less,” says Mikey.
The family run airline services the north with cargo runs and regular passenger runs to and from Hay River, a leap across Great Slave lake from Yellowknife. I’ve made that run twice with Buffalo Joe at the controls of his favourite DC-3 and it is one sweet and memorable ride.
Seeing Joe in Toronto Monday was like seeing Mike Duffy at 24 Sussex Drive. The patriarch of the McBryan clan hates any big city and civilization in particular, at least that’s what he says. Gazing out towards Lake Ontario, Joe spotted the tall smoke stacks South-East of Shaw HQs and mused that they were probably nuclear power plants, poised to go ka-boom at any minute.
Joe and Mikey were making the press run to 1010 CFRB to yak with Mike Bullard after our chat. Mikey is a fan from Bullard’s late night TVdays.

Mikey and Buffalo Joe meet the press in Toronto

Joe downplayed all that frost last winter, claiming this summer has been one of the warmest he can remember. This season sees Joe going for his helicopter licence while Mikey–usually busy in the office trying to sell Buffalo Air panties and T-shirts–finally taking flying lessons with the old man, which had to be a harrowing experience.
Joe had been down to Hamilton, Ont., not that long ago to attend the air show put on by the War Plane Heritage Museum. They have a vintage WWII Lancaster bomber there and Joe spoke wistfully about the drone of the big bird, joined in the air on that day with some Spitfires and other war time beauties.
You’ll see all that and more on Season Five.
The Buffalo fleet of Lockheed Electras has jumped from two to nine as the airline makes an inevitable move into turbo props. Even these plans date back to the late ’50s.
For some reason we got talking about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Buffalo Joe remembers where he was that day–in the barber chair. Word of the presidential murder came over the radio. Somebody in the shop suggested they got Kennedy because he was Catholic–and the speculation has run rampant from Hay River to Dallas ever since.
Joe and Mikey hustled out to Bloor Street and got into a limo to their radio interview. I told Mikey my one big regret was not getting back up to Yellowknife for the cargo flight that takes Buffalo air pilots north through the great valleys towards the Arctic seas.
“Season Nine,” says Mikey. Fingers crossed.

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