Everybody familiar with aviation will instantly think of the old green and white piston planes of Buffalo whenever he hears the city of Yellowknife mentioned. While the airline, led by passionate and charismatic aviator Joe McBryan, mostly operates in the freight and fuel market using planes like the DC-4, DC-6 and C-46, there's also a scheduled passenger flight operated by a DC-3 - and I got to be a part of it!

 

 

Before the flying part, I spent a couple of hours on the tarmac taking pictures - and it felt like the land of Milk and Honey, with all those historic planes just sitting there, waiting for me and my camera! But then the big moment came. While Buffalo's main base is Yellowknife, Joe McBryan and his family actually live in the town of Hay River, on the other end of Great Slave Lake. And since they all have kerosene running through their veins, you won't see them commute in a pick-up or a van - they'll just take their DC-3! And since there's more space aboard than they could possibly need, everyone requiring a lift is welcome to join them - as are aviation freaks and fans of their TV shot.

 

GPS-Track DC-3: [url]http://de.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=2537540[/url]

GPS-Track ATR42: [url]http://de.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=2537541[/url]

 

At 4.30PM the McBryan family and what seemed like half of the town of Hay River had assembled in front of the landmark Buffalo hangar at Yellowknife's airport. "Buffalo Joe" McBryan himself quickly jumped into the cockpit, fired up the old piston engines, and we were ready to get going!

Gently, Buffalo Joe steered the old lady to the active runway and set take-off power. Wow, that amazing sound! The whole plane began vibrating and shaking as if it was just about to fall apart, but after a few seconds Joe lowered the nose of the tail-dragger to gain more speed, and finally the heavy bird took to the skies. What a feeling!

 

 

Turning a little to the left and climbing to 5'500 feet, we left Yellowknife behind and started our 45-minute journey across Great Slave Lake. Which, by the way, is really huge - especially when travelling in a 70-year old plane and knowing about reliability of its equally old engines!

 

 

 

Here's a little vid, too!

 

 

Since I'd had such a fantastic day already, I was trying to push my luck a little and ask if there was a chance for a brief in-flight cockpit visit. Contrary to my expectations, I wasn't turned down at all - the cabin crew member just disappeared into the cockpit, and a few seconds later, big Buffalo Joe stepped out from there, joining his family in the back of the plane, making space in the cockpit for that little aviation enthusiast I was. But the surprises didn't stop there! While I had just had the intention to take some shots of the cockpit, I was instantly asked to sit down on the captain's seat and have a picture of *me* taken in there. Wow! How often do you get the chance to sit on the captain seat and grab the yoke of the flying DC-3, let alone in the year 2012!

 

 

Of course, I also got the shot of the front office I wanted...

 

 

...and a wonderful view of the engines, too!

 

 

Of course I could easily have spent hours up there, but I was keen not to test the master's patience for too long, and soon after returned to my seat in the cabin. A few minutes later, Buffalo Joe already lowered the nose of the DC-3, and aimed for the runway of Hay River, where we touched down 43 minutes after take-off. What a brief but sensational experience!

 

 

I had a mere 40 minute lay-over in Hay River before a boring new ATR-42 of First Air would take me back to Yellowknife. Keen to make the most of that time, I strayed around the airport a little, trying to shoot as many of the parked Buffalo freighters as I could. While I was in the middle of an intense fight with the airport's fence, a car pulled up behind me, and I already thought about what to tell the police officers. However, in the car sat no-one else but Buffalo Joe himself! And guess what - after his long day of work he asked me if he could give me a quick tour around his parked aircraft! What a great person! Passionate about aviation to the core, and with a great heart for people who share this fascination! We need more people like that!

Of course I didn't think twice, jumped into his old pick-up truck, and was introduced to all the lovely historic birds standing there! When it was time for my return flight, Joe drove me right back to my ATR already on the apron (what great service!) - but then he spotted his beloved DC-3 sitting in a corner and asked me to pose there together with the crew. I did as I was told, but only under the condition that he'd join us on the photo. Cussing and grunting under his breath he heaved himself out of the car, and granted me this final wish, too. And that's the story behind my picture with Buffalo Joe. What a perfect ending to a great day!

 

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