Buffalo Airways

Flying Stories from Scudrunner and others. Feel free to submit your own "Tall Tale"
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Eric Janson
Posts: 412
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2015 10:31 am

I'm sure most of you have seen the "Ice Pilots" series.

For me it's a lot more than just a series - it's my story.

Buffalo was my first commercial job right out of College. I started on the ramp and worked my way up.

We worked long hours at Buffalo - Joe expects a lot from his people. This was back in the days before the hangar in Yellowknife - everything was done outside.

After about a year of working on the ramp I started doing some flying. I ended up becoming Joe's co-pilot. I've never added it up but I probably have 1000+ hours as his co-pilot. It wasn't easy - Joe expects a lot.

One day it all became too much and I wrote Joe a resignation letter. When I came in at 0600 to get the aircraft ready for the 0730 departure I left the letter on his desk and went over to the apron to get the aircraft ready.

When Joe came out he wanted to have a word with me. He said he wasn't going to accept my resignation and listed the reasons why people should resign. None of them applied to me so I should stay!

Then as a peace offering I was allowed to start the DC-3 and do the first flight of the day run up!

I left Buffalo as Captain on the DC-3.

If you think it was tough being Joe's copilot - try having him as your copilot! If he was happy he would get off the aircraft without saying a word. If he was unhappy you'd be hearing about it!

When I left I was upfront with Joe about it. He gave me a two page letter of reference (which I never asked for - I didn't know about things like that back then). It's still part of my CV and is something very unique - not many people can say they have this.

To say I owe him my career is an understatement. Things I learned flying there have kept me out of trouble flying large jets around the world.

"Ice Pillots" has really but Buffalo on the map. It makes for some interesting conversations.

One night I was flying out of London Heathrow to the Maldives - it turns out we had 2 Heathrow controllers onboard who were going on their honeymoon. Heathrow ATC was extremely kind to us that night - it's amazing what is possible to arrange.

I invited the controllers up front to pass on my thanks to the Heathrow controllers. They were curious about my background. When I mentioned Canada they both said "Ice Pilots!"

The look on their faces when I explained to them that I'd actually worked there still brings a smile to my face!

Posts: 3450
Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2015 10:31 am

[quote]Things I learned flying there have kept me out of trouble flying large jets around the world[/quote]

I know it's a lot to ask, but for the benefit of future pilots,
could you consider writing some more about this?

Just start with listing a bunch of points, and fill them in
over time.
Posts: 1351
Joined: Thu Feb 13, 2014 5:08 pm

Awesome, pure awesome.

I remember knocking on the door at Buffalo looking for a job back in 2002. Nothing was going on not even a ramp job. Joe wasn't around and I can't recall the name of whom I talked to, hell it could even have been Mikey.

Some days when I watched that show I was grateful that I didn't get on there. Most of the time envious of the pilots getting to fly those amazing machines.
Posts: 3450
Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2015 10:31 am

Great guys.

[img width=500 height=375][/img]

[img width=500 height=332][/img]

I guess that makes me a [b]BAD PERSON[/b].

Oh well.  I consider them friends, even if
Mikey could never get the hang of the paddle
shifters on the Ferrari  ;D

I suspect Mikey was flattering me, but his
opinion was that our low-altitude four-Pitts
formation was "the scariest thing he'd ever
done in an airplane", which considering the
trips he must have made with his father ...

Pity it got cut.  We got some great footage. 
Enforcement would still be processing it now,
years later, trying to figure out what charges
they could lay to fuck us over.
Eric Janson
Posts: 412
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2015 10:31 am

[b]Things I learned working at Buffalo

Correct use of flight controls (especially the rudder)[/b].
You're 'flying' the DC-3 anytime it's moving so having the flight controls positioned correctly can make life a lot easier for you. Joe demonstrated the correct use of ailerons to me by using inputs to move the aircraft left and right on the runway after landing.

[b]Awareness of wind direction/speed and effects.
[/b]The DC-3 will handle a lot of crosswind if flown correctly. Every landing requires awareness of where the wind is coming from as you cannot land the aircraft crabbed.
The same is true on take-off where the wind will aggravate or help in directional control depending on the direction. Also important to use the wind to help you when doing a 180 degree turn.

[b]Awareness of Engine parameters.
[/b]Radial engines require careful operation and even then things can go wrong. A careful watch of engine parameters can catch a developing problem early. You can often hear it when something goes wrong inside the engine.

[b]Basic Systems Knowledge.
[/b]The DC-3 was one of the first aircraft with redundant systems. You can still find these basic systems in modern aircraft. The 737 parking brake works exactly the same as the parking brake on the DC-3 for example. The DC-3 didn't have the warning indications associated with system failure - there are no indications if a generator or vacuum pump fails. [b]

Manual Flying
[/b]No autopilot in any of the DC-3's I flew - strictly manual flying with a basic panel similar to what you see in a Cessna. We operated all weather IFR. Very good training flying approaches by hand to minimums.Great way to develop manual flying skills early in your career.

That's my list for now - I'll add to it if I think of anything else.

Posts: 3450
Joined: Wed Apr 29, 2015 10:31 am

Thanks Eric!  Guys like you, Chuck and Liquid Charlie have
stuff that's been burned into your DNA over the decades.

While we might find those lessons to be terribly obvious,
it's getting to be forgotten, obscure tribal knowledge.

A few years back my friend Carlos (Taca 110 - he dead-sticked
a 737 and landed it undamaged, no one hurt) and I were riding
a hotel shuttle to the airport, and he was needling me that we
used to be  "the best" and wondered what the hell happened.

I had no good answer for him.
Chuck Ellsworth

Wow....this is the stuff that makes a good aviation forum.

Eric has nailed it about Joe and the DC3, just reading this makes me glad I flew when I did, unfortunately the new generation will never have that chance and as techonology advances pilots skills become less.

I would like to add just one more interesting comment on the DC3, that thing was awesome in X/winds once you got used to it, however when they designed the Super DC3 / C117 they did not put enough rudder travel in it and it was not as good in X/winds as the DC3 is.

Eric Janson
Posts: 412
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2015 10:31 am

[b]A few more things I learned at Buffalo
[b]Winter Operations[/b]
When I worked at Buffalo the aircraft were always outside. It was a lot of work getting the aircraft ready for a flight. I know all about Herman Nelson's, Engine tents, Wing covers and Plug in heaters.

I've landed on a number of ice runways. I've never flown the aircraft on skis - would have liked to have done that.

There was no temperature cut-off when I worked there - one morning it was -48C in Yellowknife!. Coldest I've experienced was at a mine site North of Yellowknife - the temperature probe went to -45C then a space and then a stop. The needle was resting on the stop. When I went outside I felt the soles of my Kamiks getting stiff - never had that happen before or since.

[b]Learning from People who knew what they were talking about.[/b]
I had 250 hours when I started at Buffalo - and I had a lot to learn. I've been very fortunate to have flown with people who knew a lot and were very generous in passing on their knowledge experience to me.

Sad that this is almost a thing of the past - this is probably the best education you can get!

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