Ice Pilots NWT

Dates and Venue Wednesday Nights on the History Channel

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

Ice Pilots NWT, one of the coolest new shows on the History Television, is about Buffalo Airlines based way up in the Canadian northern community of Yellowknife.  With average Celsius winter temperatures of thirty degrees below, blizzards and polar bears are just a few of the dangers these pilots contend with on a fairly regular basis. 

This series holds great promise with dynamic relationships, picturesque settings, and dramatically tense air passages both within the Canadian north and internationally.  Training Captain Justin Simle speaking on the phone from Yellowknife just forty-five minutes before piloting his DC-3 in its last passenger run of the day from Yellowknife to Hay River crystallizes things:  He says the ice pilots are passionate about what they do, and their passion is infectious because "we're in the middle of nowhere, and all's we got is our airplane and our crew so we gotta make this work."

What makes 'making it work' that much more of a challenge is the fact that those planes he is talking about are anywhere from sixty to seventy-five years old.  Ice Pilots NWT is a dramatic reality TV record of what Justin feels may well be the end of the era for bush pilots, a very real possibility that gives this show even more cachet as a history-in-the-making documentary. 

Later this season, Justin shepherds two CL-215 water bombers from Red Deer to Turkey on his first crossing of the Atlantic in one of these planes. 

What makes this transatlantic crossing unique was that it took place at a time of year that had never been tried before.  Engine problems, volcanoes and busy Mediterranean air traffic make for more than a little excitement.  Justin would not give away much about the trip, but he did say the transatlantic crossing in these two old birds was a little like driving a golf cart from Vancouver to Kelowna.  Like Justin says of Buffalo, "it takes a special type of person to work here, and it takes a special type of airplane."

Ice Pilots NWT provides viewers with a vivid contrast to the typical flight patterns of most civilized communities, where there is an airport every 60 miles with 12,000 feet of paved runways waiting for the plane.  Up north the runways are short, the weather is formidable and the planes are antiques.  What is up-to-the-moment is the adrenaline rush you get from the cockpit feel of this bush pilot experience.  Make your next flight with Ice Pilots NWT on the History Channel, Wednesday Nights.  But be prepared for turbulence.

© 2009 Roger Wayne Eberle