North

Buffalo Airways, of TV's Ice Pilots NWT, has licence suspended

Transport Canada has grounded the operations of Buffalo Airways, the popular northern airline chronicled over six seasons on TV's Ice Pilots NWT, due to safety compliance issues.

Transport Canada previously cited 'adversarial relationship' in dealings with airline

A Buffalo Airways C-46 airplane is shown hours after it caught fire in Yellowknife in December 2013. Transport Canada has grounded the airline due to safety compliance issues. (CBC)

Transport Canada has grounded the operations of Buffalo Airways, the popular northern airline chronicled over six seasons on TV's Ice Pilots NWT, due to safety compliance issues.

In a release Tuesday, the regulator said it is suspending the airline's air operator certificate due to its "poor safety record."

The suspension took effect Monday at 11:59 p.m.

Mikey McBryan, general manager of N.W.T.'s Buffalo Airways, was among the family and staff featured on the reality TV show Ice Pilots NWT. (CBC)
"The department will not allow Buffalo Airways to resume its commercial air service until it proves it can keep its operations consistently compliant with aviation safety regulations," the release stated.

Buffalo Airways offers charter freight and passenger flights throughout the Northwest Territories and beyond. It also ran a regularly-scheduled passenger service between Yellowknife and Hay River, N.W.T. 

Transport Canada says it consulted the airline in the lead-up to the suspension.

A history of incidents

The suspension follows a history of incidents. 

In August 2013, a Buffalo Airways DC-3 made a hard landing at the Yellowknife airport 30 seconds after takeoff, and right after its right engine burst into flames. All 24 people on board were fine, a fact some attributed to a "damn good pilot."

Four months later, a Buffalo Airways C-46 plane, bound to pick up freight in Hay River, N.W.T., caught fire after it blew an engine while taxiing down the runway at the Yellowknife airport. 

Last summer, the company was fined after pleading guilty to three violations of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act. The airline was charged with using too-large tanks to haul diesel fuel to two remote exploration camps in 2012, with improper labelling and missing paperwork. 

Company official Rod McBryan said Buffalo had been using the tanks for 35 years.

This October, a cargo plane belonging to Buffalo Airways crash landed outside of Deline, N.W.T.

Earlier this year, the TSB released its report into the 2013 hard landing in Yellowknife. 

'Adversarial relationship'

The report cited engine failure and an overloaded plane, as well as larger concerns about the airline's safety practices.

In October, a cargo plane belonging to Buffalo Airways crash landed outside of Deline, N.W.T. (submitted)
The board wrote: "… the organizational culture at Buffalo Airways was not supportive of a system that required the organization to take a proactive role in identifying hazards and reducing risks.

"The company's response to deficiencies identified during [Transport Canada] surveillance activities demonstrated an adversarial relationship between the company and the regulator."

The History Channel aired the last episode of Ice Pilots NWT, which depicted the day-to-day operations of Buffalo Airways, in December 2014.

The show helped the airline based in Hay River, N.W.T., garner a cult following.

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