(Buffalo Airways Lockheed Electra. From website)
By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
An airline currently featured in a reality television program about northern bush pilots saw one its aircraft land at the Yellowknife airport Monday with its right landing gear jammed.
The Buffalo Airways plane skidded to halt off the runway after its pilots spent an hour trying unsuccessfully to dislodge the malfunctioning landing gear.
Joe “Buffalo” McBryan, owner of Buffalo Airways, said the pilots made a “textbook” emergency landing with just two of three landing gears working.
The two pilots and three crew members aboard walked away unscathed from the Lockheed Electra aircraft, said McBryan.
“It was something that was precautionary and very well practiced because you have an experienced crew,” said McBryan. “Nobody is hurt or upset. It is more an inconvenience to the disruption of (air) traffic.”
The captain of the plane “has been flying Electras out of Yellowknife his whole life,” said McBryan. The co-pilot has been with the company for nine years, he said.
Buffalo Airways is featured in the History Television reality series, Ice Pilots NWT, which, according to the show’s website, follows “the adventures of maverick Arctic airline, Buffalo Airways.”
A spokesperson for the Northwest Territories’ Department of Transportation initially said there were six people aboard. Earl Blacklock said he believed the sixth individual was a camera operator for the reality television series.
Omni Film Productions would not comment on the incident.
McBryan said there was no sixth person aboard and no cameras on the aircraft.
“There was no Ice Pilots on board today,” he said.
McBryan said the flight was on its way to Yellowknife from a camp in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, when the pilots discovered there was a problem with the right landing gear about an hour before its scheduled landing at 11:30 a.m. local time.
“They called me on the radio and I called the engineering brains to make sure we did every drill,” he said. “We talked to three different people on the phone, we got all their advice and it didn’t work.”
The pilots attempted two “bounced” landings to try and dislodge the malfunctioning landing gear before deciding to land, said McBryan.
In a bounced landing, pilots try to land hard on the working landing gears in hopes the impact will pop the malfunctioning wheels.
“They bounced the aircraft twice on the runway,” said McBryan. “The third option was to land without it.”
The landing wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds, he said. The plane landed with its two working landing gears which kept it stable until it lost speed. Once the right side dropped, the plane “did a big arc” and went off the runway.
“Hollywood can make it dangerous if you want to put John Wayne in there,” said McBryan. “It is not a dangerous situation. The airplane was down before I realized it was down…It’s happened many, many times before. We have a very well trained crew that went through all the drills.”
McBryan said the airline will now work with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to find out what went wrong.
“There’ll be lots of paperwork,” he said.
The North, however, has been hit by several deadly crashes in recent months.
Last October, an Air Tindi Cessna crashed about 200 kilometres east of Yellowknife, killing two people, including the pilot.
A month earlier, an Arctic Sunwest Twin Otter crashed in Yellowknife’s Old Town neighbourhood, killing the pilot and co-pilot.
In August, a First Air 737 crashed near Resolute Bay, Nunavut, killing 12 of 15 people aboard.