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Airline based in Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada
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.
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".
In 2012, Arctic Air, a Canadian aviation drama, used Buffalo Airways hangar as a backdrop for scenes in the show. During a tour of Buffalo Airways' hangar, given by Director of Operations, Mikey McBryan, he explained how the TV show used tarps to cover the Buffalo Airways insignia.
Buffalo 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.
Under contract for the NWT Government, Buffalo Airways operate and maintain aircraft used in the aerial firefighting program. Aircraft include both bird dog and waterbombers. The waterbombers are assisted by smaller aircraft known as "bird dogs" which are used to help spot wildfires as well as guide waterbombers during operations
The airline operated scheduled passenger services between Hay River and Yellowknife from August 1986 until November 2015. However, due to the suspension of the Air Operator Certificate scheduled service was replaced in December 2015, when the company chartered aircraft to make the run. The charter service was cancelled 24 December. As of Spring 2019 Buffalo has not resumed passenger service, and currently does not have trained flight attendants making passenger service unlikely in the near future. It carried over 186,000 passengers from 1986 to 2015. 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.
On 30 November 2015, Transport Canada suspended Buffalo Airways' Air Operator Certificate, citing the airline's poor safety record. This prohibited Buffalo Airways from operating commercial air services, until it could prove that it is capable of meeting all safety regulations on a consistent basis. Service was maintained using chartered aircraft. On 12 January 2016, the licence was reinstated.
Accidents and incidents
Buffalo Airways has nine accidents listed by the Aviation Safety Network, none of which had any fatalities. In addition to the Aviation Safety network, there are two more reported incidents that were investigated by the Transportation Board of Canada. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is an independent agency that advances transportation safety by investigating occurrences in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation.
On 24 July 2001, TANKER602, a Consolidated PBY-5A Canso C-FNJE 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.
On 28 August 2002, BFL928, 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.
On 1 August 2003, Douglas C-54G C-GBSK touched down short of the runway at the Ulu 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.
On 25 May 2004, BFL326, a loaded C-46D (C-FAVO), was seriously damaged at Yellowknife Airport while taxiing for departure. The company reported the tail wheel went off the threshold of runway 09 (now runway 10) while turning to align with the active runway for take-off, sinking into a soft gravel area in a 90° position from centreline. The crew applied power to try and free the stuck aircraft which resulted in a sideways loading of the tailwheel bulkhead at station 720, causing structural failure at the tail wheel to fuselage attachment points as well as buckling of the main fuselage between station 615 and 633. The incident caused the runway to remain closed for about six hours until the aircraft could be repaired sufficiently to allow safe removal. Although the aircraft was substantially damaged, it was subsequently repaired and returned to active service using a section cut from a derelict airframe of Everts Air Cargo Express, Fairbanks, Alaska; 42-96578 - N4860V
On 5 January 2006, BFL1405, a Douglas C-54G (C-GXKN), had departed Norman Wells Airport when the number two engine caught fire and stopped. The crew attempted to put out the fire but were not successful. While feathering the number two propeller, number one 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.
On 29 December 2006, BFL129, a Douglas C-54A (C-GPSH), suffered a nose gear collapse following a runway excursion while landing on an ice strip at Carat Lake near Jericho Diamond Mine. The aircraft's nose dropped over an embankment at the end of the runway, damaging the nose section. The aircraft was transporting 9,000 l (2,000 imp gal; 2,400 US gal) 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.
On 5 March 2012, BFL1105, a Lockheed L-188A Electra (C-FBAQ), landed at the Yellowknife Airport, but was unable to extend the right main landing gear. The aircraft landed on the left and nose gear and caused substantial damage to the number three and four propellers and wing. The five occupants on board were uninjured.
On 9 November 2012, BFL509, 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.
On 19 August 2013, BFL168, 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. The subsequent investigation determined the cause to be an engine cylinder fatigue crack, propeller feathering pump failure, and overloading of the aircraft.
On 25 September 2015, BFL525, a Curtiss C-46A (C-GTXW), diverted to Deline Airport following engine problems, where it made an emergency gear-up landing. Although the aircraft was written off, the four crew were not injured. An initial investigation by Buffalo Airways revealed that the oil scavenge pump had failed on the number two engine.
On 3 May 2019, BFL169, a Douglas DC-3 (C-GJKM) suffered an engine failure and force-landed outside Hay River. The aircraft left Hay River shortly before 8:00 on Friday before experiencing an engine failure southeast of the airfield, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said. Two crew were on board, the safety board said. Both were uninjured. Reports from news sources say the airframe was damaged beyond repair.
Era Alaska - another airline with a reality TV show based on it
First Air - currently operating the Yellowknife - Hay River service