One of my favourite reality shows ends Wednesday night: Ice Pilots NWT. The series, based in Yellowknife, has soared for six seasons on History. I had the great pleasure, on two occasions, to make the trek to the ‘Knife and hang with Buffalo Joe, Mikey and all the colourful McBryans of Buffalo Air. What drew me were the fabulous vintage birds the airline kept in the skies, beautiful DC-3s and DC-4s, a Curtis C-46 and several Lockheed Electras as well as a couple of water bombers. To actually get to fly in a WWII-era DC-3 over Great Slave Lake on Buffalo Joe’s daily run to Hay River–twice–was a thrill of a lifetime.
My visits there were in November and December and I got the whole minus 25 degree experience. Still, I’d go back in a heartbeat, back to Bullock’s Cafe, back to the many houseboats frozen in place on the lake, back to the Northern Lights that flicker overhead like nowhere else. I survived a brisk, 30-minute dogsled ride around the shores of Great Slave only because the sled shop had the gear you need to wear to make that trip–plus being piled six to a sled.
Hats off to Mikey and the gang for cranking out 70-odd episodes of this eccentric and fascinating series–an impressive run in in Canadian reality circles. You go for the planes but stay for the McBryans. They are Canada’s Kardashians in that a) they’re a reality TV family b) they fly everywhere without any thought to cost and c) Mikey’s ass is even bigger than Kim’s.
Mikey says he’s working on new series ideas and here’s hoping they take off someday, too. Follow this link to the Ice Pilots farewell piece I wrote this week for The Canadian Press.