The Best Episodes of Ice Pilots NWT
Last Updated: May 16, 2019
This documentary series follows the pilots of the Yellowknife-based Buffalo Airways, which still flies Second World War airplanes to transport people around Northern Canada.
#1 - D-Day
Season 6 - Episode 8
The Buffalo boys gather in Red Deer for Mikey’s D-Day tribute jump. Joe and Sam scout out the designated military drop zone over Abraham Lake in the Rockies only to discover the canyon is too narrow for the DC-3. So Joe cancels the whole thing—it’s too dangerous. Mikey uses Joe’s own philosophy against him: at Buffalo, there’s always a backup plan. Joe flies out to scout a new location for the drop on the lake but hits bad weather. As Joe is about to scrap the trip, twenty paratroopers from the Canadian and American armies arrive for the big jump and are ready to go. They board WZS and Joe takes off to a site he hasn’t scouted, in weather that just keeps getting worse. As they near the drop point, he finally calls it—no jump tonight. They turn back, with all the troops still on board. Mikey’s only hope is a narrow window first thing the next morning—but only if Joe gives the final okay.
#2 - Second Chances
Season 6 - Episode 5
Newly minted copilot Jeff Tapper is excited for his first revenue DC-3, but his inexperience shows when he botches the approach and bounces the landing three times, nearly running off the runway. Meanwhile, for new rampie Prefkar Mony to realize his dream of becoming a DC-3 pilot, he needs to first pass the written IATRA test. He’s been studying for months, but on his first attempt, he fails. With the help of pilot/mechanic Chris Staples, Prefkar retakes the test and passes, but his victory celebration is short-lived when he’s blamed for leaving an expensive shipment of medicine marked “Do Not Freeze” in a courier van during a minus 30 weekend. Later, Mikey and Katie decide to find Joe a new dog and choose Muffy, a three-year-old dog from the SPCA who is ready to leave her pups. They bring her back to the hangar for a test drive. Joe brings DC-3 CUE out of retirement to test fly the plane for Buffalo’s summer sked duty and he brings along Jeff—and Muffy—to see if they’re Buffalo material.
#3 - Coming Home
Season 3 - Episode 13
Rookie waterbomber pilot Scott gets his first taste of action when Buffalo responds to an emergency callout to fight fires in Alberta. Mikey and Rod think they hit the jackpot when they buy a million dollar firefighting plane on eBay at a bargain price. Joe marks his 50 years of flying by returning to the place he grew up in his historic Norseman. And Arnie shows up in Yellowknife to cheer on daughter Caitlin in a cancer fundraiser.
#4 - Big Plans, Bad Luck
Season 6 - Episode 6
Mikey talks to a 15-year-old aviation buff in England via Skype, who has discovered that Buffalo’s DC3–WZS–flew on D-Day. This inspires Mikey to do something special for the 70th anniversary. He invites Cory to do a tandem parachute jump and finds out that Cory’s grandfather was a paratrooper at the invasion of Normandy. Meanwhile, Mikey takes mercy on Prefkar, working the ramp in Hay River, and offers him a chance for some pilot training on the morning DC-3 freighter. But when the time comes, Prefkar learns that he’s been bumped for pilot David Alexandre. It gets worse for Prefkar when he’s given another chance and this time the fog rolls in. Prefkar might not stick it out at Buffalo. Mikey’s D-Day plans get even bigger when he contacts the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry, who were part of the Allied airborne forces that dropped behind German lines in 1944. He pitches his plan—a reenactment jump from WZS, an actual D-Day plane. But there’s a hitch: the plane needs to pass inspection, and Mikey needs to lose weight to make the cut for tandem jumping. Mikey tries everything he can think of—from juicing, working out with Dan at the gym and even sweating it out in spin class. Cory and Mikey go over what they need to refit DC-3 WZS for a static line jump. Cory is sent on a scavenger hunt for parts in Red Deer and finds a brand-new bracket from the 1940s—but they still need to find the missing rear bracket, and nobody even knows what it looks like.
#5 - On the Move
Season 1 - Episode 6
A charter flight falls through the cracks after the McBryans attend a wild family wedding, and an irate Joe pulls captain Justin from the Turkey test flights to do the job. Justin's task is to move an impatient Brit, his dog and all his worldly possessions to a remote northern outpost, but the weather isn't cooperating. Meanwhile, Devan ponders a job offer in Africa - leaving girlfriend Jynelle to ponder their future.
#6 - Checkflight
Season 6 - Episode 4
Buffalo Joe has been a captain on the daily sked for 34 years and his 70th birthday is next week. Joe might have to stop flying if he doesn’t pass his medical and that could spell the end of Buffalo. Before Joe leaves to undergo five days of medical tests at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, he calls two rampies, Sam Storm and Jeff Tapper, into his office to greenlight their DC-3 checkflights. Both Jeff and Sam have slogged away for eight months waiting for this chance. But on flight day, Sam is sick to his stomach from eating bad eggs the night before. Sam is not about to let a bad egg beat him and he helps Jeff prep DC-3, LFR. Just before takeoff, nausea wins—Sam has no choice but to back out and there’s no telling when he’ll get another chance. Jeff, on the other hand, has to overcome the jitters that have haunted him ever since he was in a crash landing earlier in the year. Mikey, Rod and his family prepare to greet Joe with a birthday cake shaped like a DC-3. At the last minute, Mikey gets a call that Joe isn’t coming back today; instead he’s decided to celebrate his own way—going for a ride in a classic 1940 Boeing Stearman biplane.
#7 - Aussie Ace
Season 5 - Episode 5
Following almost a year of repairs after its crash landing, Buffalo Airways' Electra returns home to take on an urgent mission – returning to the very ice strip that set off the problems last year. It's the ultimate test for the plane and the crew. DC-4 co-pilot Tyler makes a major decision about his future, but now he has to face Joe. A pilot shows up out of the blue – all the way from Australia. Will Dyer has ten times the experience of a normal novice and quickly works to win a seat in a Buffalo cockpit. But the company throws him a curveball that puts his future in doubt.
#8 - Rock Stars and Rampies
Season 5 - Episode 6
Joe's stress over the state of his water bombers, currently being stored in Wales, sparks an angry blow up with Cory, pushing Cory and Rod to head to the UK for urgent repairs. A day of culture in London leaves the hosers cold until they hook up with their British host, Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson. But at Bruce's Welsh facility they run into snags that threaten the work. David flies with Devan in the C-46, hoping to show how much he's learned. But when David badly botches a takeoff, Devan threatens violence. Instead of flying, hotshot Aussie Will gets stuck working on the ramp in Hay River, pushing him to a harsh ultimatum.
#9 - Air Show
Season 5 - Episode 12
Mikey and Joe visit the Hamilton air show where Mikey has planned a major surprise for Father's Day. Joe is going to ride along in a CT-114 Tutor Jet with the famous Snowbirds. While Joe prepares for the big event, Mikey decides to conquer his fear of heights. He travels down the highway to Toronto and tries out the CN Tower "Edgewalk." But he's determined to go even higher. After all the bonding he and Joe have done in Hamilton, Mikey takes his first pilot lesson with Joe as the teacher. It turns out there are some heights Mikey still fears. As spring warms up Yellowknife, a longtime member of the Buffalo family announces a surprise departure.
#10 - Five Seasons
Season 5 - Episode 13
It's been a wild five years for ICE PILOTS NWT. To celebrate the milestone, we pull back the curtain for an inside glimpse into the production of the TV show, and allow the cast of Buffalo characters to reflect on how it's affected their lives, for better or for worse. And we meet the cameramen who navigate prickly personalities and brave minus-forty conditions to capture the footage that has made ICE PILOTS NWT a cult phenomenon.
#11 - Dogfight
Season 6 - Episode 7
Mikey shows a veteran Buffalo’s DC-3, WZS, Buffalo’s very own vintage plane from the Second World War. It is being fitted with a special ‘static’ line, which paratroopers will clip onto for a D-Day reenactment jump. But army inspectors tell Mikey a modern military needs a modern line with a winch system in case they need to retrieve a “hung-up jumper”. Cory and Mikey scramble to build the retrieval line before the inspector comes back to test it. But with their bumbling and fumbling, it doesn’t look like they will make the cut. Meanwhile, Chris Staples and some of Buffalo’s pilots head down to Fullerton, California, to Air Combat USA, where pilots get to experience aerial dogfights in real fighter planes. The pilots do yo-yos, spins and pull Gs to out-maneuver their opponent. First up in the dogfights are newly checked-out co-pilot Sam Storm versus longtime co-pilot David Alexandre. Sam wins the fight due to David’s inability to hold down his breakfast. Next up is cocky co-pilot Chris Staples versus his C-46 captain Devan Brooks. But Devan’s many years in DC-3s and C-46s have left him unprepared for the video game pace of dogfighting and he quickly loses 3-0. Finally, the two top guns return to the sky. Sam scores first, but Chris is not about to get beaten.
#12 - Dark Skies
Season 4 - Episode 1
Joe performs stunt landings for a film crew; new employee Ryan tries to prove his worth in Hay River; a dental hygienist gets thrown into the hot seat.
#13 - Cold Start
Season 5 - Episode 1
This season opens with a meltdown when the C-46 suffers a major gear collapse on the runway, sending the entire Buffalo crew scrambling. As the coldest winter in decades grips Yellowknife, every pilot and mechanic in the company faces the huge challenge of keeping the aging fleet in the air. Buffalo's livelihood falls heavily on Joe's Lockheed Electra until a freak accident threatens to ground the plane. Hearing of an Electra up for sale, Joe heads on an urgent mission across the Atlantic. As the record-cold winter stretches on, a young hotshot pilot journeys all the way from Australia to earn a place in Buffalo's DC-3. And a longtime member of the Buffalo family leaves for good.
#14 - Power Struggle
Season 3 - Episode 6
Duane lands a huge contract for the Electra and puts enormous pressure on mechanic Adam to prep the plane without the help of his mentor Chuck. Kelly plans her Mexican wedding, but Jynelle's sudden resignation leaves her in the lurch. The power goes out in Yellowknife, spurring Joe into crisis mode.
#15 - Dambusters
Season 3 - Episode 2
Buffalo gets into the stunt flying business when veteran pilot Arnie flies the DC-4 for the re-enactment scene of a famous WWII bombing raid. A routine C-46 flight becomes dangerous when a hole in the plane's aging exhaust system sets off the fire alarm, and Devan has to decide whether or not to shut down an engine mid-flight.
#16 - Old Dogs
Season 6 - Episode 3
When Buffalo’s newest Electra, ZFE, lands in Yellowknife with only three functioning engines, mechanic Chuck Adams comes to the rescue to replace a brand-new $29,000 regulator on engine number three. It’s been slow for the airline and delivering a load of building supplies to the RCMP up in Ulukhaktok, NWT, might help keep Buffalo in the air. Spurred by a recent crash landing and two engine fires, an audit team from Transport Canada descends on Buffalo Airways. With their long and tumultuous history with Joe, they demand that Buffalo appoint a new “Accountable Executive” within 72 hours, or risk being shut down. But Joe isn’t about to hand over the keys to the kingdom—not even to Rod, his oldest son. Mikey worries that if they don’t meet the deadline, Buffalo Airways could become Buffalo Spare Parts. Transport Canada isn’t the only thing on Joe’s mind; it’s becoming apparent that Joe’s 16-year-old rescue dog, Sophie, is on her last legs. One morning Joe finds Sophie lying under a plane, unable to stand up. Joe realizes that her time has come—he calls the vet.
#17 - Gear Up, Gear Down
Season 3 - Episode 4
Frustrated with her lack of flying and stuck in a rut as a courier driver, Audrey decides her time at Buffalo is over. Devan, Ian and Jimmy deal with a hydraulic fluid leak in the C-46 on the valley run, which forces Jimmy to crawl into the "hell hole" and crank down the landing gear by hand.
#18 - Crash Landing
Season 4 - Episode 6
Just months from retiring, Electra captain Ray Weber leads his crew on a multi trip mission that requires landing on a rough ice strip on a remote lake. The ice strip landing goes fine, but when the plane takes off from the strip, the right landing gear gets stuck in the wheel well. Ray and his crew try to get the wheel down but to no avail, and are forced to perform an emergency landing that they'll never forget.
#19 - Big Boost
Season 3 - Episode 5
When a ferry breakdown causes a gasoline shortage in Yellowknife, new manager Duane begs Chuck to return and prepare the Electra for a fuel haul. Cory leads a clandestine rescue mission to retrieve an abandoned C-46 and Mikey escapes to Ottawa for a birthday joyride in a fighter jet.
#20 - Cause for Celebration
Season 1 - Episode 8
AJ and Candace get married in the Ice Castle. A frustrated Chuck tries to get the Electra to pay her way. A flummoxed Mikey tries to bake a cake for Joe's birthday. And in Newfoundland, a fuel leak, a sobering survival course and a tragic crash rattle the Turkey crew. When raging winds provide the long-awaited weather window, will they chance on the treacherous North Atlantic crossing?
#21 - A Very Buffalo Christmas
Season 4 - Episode 5
A week before Christmas, Buffalo agrees to lend a hand to an RCMP initiative to fly toys to isolated communities in the north. But a series of problems with the Electra leave the company in a jam. An excess of holiday freight overwhelms cargo manager Kelly, and despite a visit from her buddy Arnie Schreder, recovering from his cancer treatment, her stress peaks after a clash with Joe.
#22 - For Sale By Owner
Season 4 - Episode 7
When South Korean buyers come to Buffalo to look at a water bomber, the pressure is on mechanic Cory to get the plane ready. But a landing gear emergency puts him and chief pilot Justin in serious danger. Rod and Mikey salivate over a fleet of P3 Orion water bombers up for auction at a California fire fighting conference.
#23 - Ice Storm
Season 6 - Episode 2
Chief Pilot AJ Decoste is flying up the Mackenzie Valley with Buffalo’s newest Electra, XFC, for the first time. Mechanic Cory Dodd is along for the ride to do some training as a Flight Engineer. They try to make their deliveries before a storm rolls in but when they land in Norman Wells, they are faced with gale force winds. When their takeoff is delayed by two incoming planes, AJ is forced to shut down and wait out the storm in Norman Wells. Later, on their approach to Tulita, they face even stronger winds gusting over 40 knots. Over in Hay River, things go from bad to worse when a warm weather system brings the threat of a rare ice storm. Two daily skeds arrive from Yellowknife and the rampies have to batten down the DC-3s in preparation for a long, rough night—the worst storm in fifty years. And the newest rampie, CJ Asaf, just can’t seem to fit in. Rampie Prefkar is tasked with training CJ on the Hay River delivery route, but Prefkar can’t handle CJ or his attitude.
#24 - Meltdown
Season 4 - Episode 10
As spring arrives and Ray's retirement day approaches, Sean surprises everyone by leaving Buffalo for a job with the competition. So Buffalo brings in Electra pilot Brian Harrison to finish the contract. But as ice strip conditions deteriorate, each flight is riskier than the last. When Buffalo gets the news of former chief pilot Arnie Schreder's passing, Justin flies a DC3 to pick up Arnie's family in Kelowna and brings them back to Yellowknife for a special memorial remembering the aviation legend.
#25 - Snowplane
Season 5 - Episode 3
Joe preps for a race in an antique snowplane – a 1940s ancestor of the snowmobile, powered by an airplane engine and devoid of brakes. No one knows what will happen when he unleashes it on frozen Great Slave Lake. The water bomber crew, led by Justin and Cory, try to move their two fire-fighting planes from Turkey to a maintenance facility in Wales, but get tangled up in red tape, threatening to ruin their chance of meeting up with Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickinson. Rampie and cocky aspiring pilot Chris Staples pushes his way onto a C-46 flight, where he makes a critical mistake. AJ makes a last-second overshoot.