Fulfilling an Aviation Dream in Canada

Yellowknife, Canada in winter
Yellowknife, Canada in winter

AFF member Justinf recently visited the United States and Canada during the middle of winter. The temperatures were well below freezing but there were plenty of exciting things to see and do. The ultimate destination of the trip was Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories. This part of the world is so remote – and the winter weather so extreme – that there is a television show called Ice Pilots NWT about the small airline based in Yellowknife. Our member was especially looking forward to touring the hangar of Buffalo Airways, the subject of Ice Pilots NWT.

Just completed a 2 and a half week journey through some parts of the States and Canada in winter. Flew from MEL to LA and then a connection to Minneapolis (what a nightmare that was – more to come). Then up to Edmonton and then onto Yellowknife for five nights and then down to Denver.

My main goals for the trip was to visit Buffalo Airways, see the Northern Lights, experience minus 30 degrees (again as I did in Fairbanks this time last year) and to see the San Antonio Spurs play, which I did in Denver.

The trip began in style on board Qantas First class to Los Angeles. Unfortunately the luxury came to an abrupt halt at Los Angeles International Airport. Justinf had booked an onward Delta flight to Minneapolis but a long delay left him waiting for hours in the airport terminal. Despite holding a First class ticket with Delta, this doesn’t come with lounge access when flying within the United States!

After several more stops, Justinf made it to Yellowknife. The weather was a very chilly -20 degrees. Yes, minus twenty. It may have been cold outside, but the Canadian scenery was spectacular. There are other advantages to visiting the far north in winter too, like the opportunity to see the Northern Lights.

Excited to be in Yellowknife, our member arranged a tour of the Buffalo Airways hangars.

If you are not sure what Ice Pilots NWT is, as I’ve explained before, they were the feature of a six-part series in which this airline, based in Yellowknife, flies vintage planes to remote communities in the harshest of conditions. They also had a passenger service to Hay River, but it was discontinued. I was an avid viewer of the series and was super excited to get out to the hangar and possibly meet some of the crew that starred in the series.

After a tour of the hangar, Justinf was browsing the gift shop when he chanced upon a brush with fame…

All of a sudden a man appeared at the gift shop door. It was Buffalo Joe.
My heart skipped a beat. In the show he is portrayed as grumpy old man, but he came up to me and asked where I was from.
“Australia” I said.
“Come out here with me,” he said.
He then took me on another tour of the hangar and told it from his perspective. I was in wonderland. Not only is the man a genius pilot, his knowledge was incredible.

Follow Justinf‘s trip report as he journeys through a winter wonderland: US and Canada in winter – Ice Pilots NWT Yellowknife geek


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]