The Red Deer Regional Airport is receiving national television exposure, thanks to History Television’s reality show Ice Pilots NWT.
The local airport figured prominently in several of the 13 episodes that made up the first season of the show, which chronicles the operations of Yellowknife-based Buffalo Airways.
And Mickey McBryan, Buffalo’s general manager, said video crews returned to Central Alberta during filming for Season 2.
The first season — which was broadcast on History Television from Nov. 18, 2009, to Feb. 13, 2010, and is now being rebroadcast — had as one of its story lines Buffalo’s sale of two Canadair CL-215 waterbombers to the Turkish government.
The $7-million deal required Buffalo to transport the aircraft, which were housed in the company’s hangar at the Red Deer Regional Airport, to Turkey. That necessitated extensive modifications to the short-haul airplanes to prepare them for the trans-Atlantic crossing.
Rubber bladder fuel tanks were installed to enable the CL-215s to fly the 2,200 km from St. John’s, N.L., to the Azores.
The plot is punctuated with challenges and setbacks for Buffalo.
But the series has struck a chord with viewers.
“It’s the number 1 show on History,” said McBryan, adding that his family’s business — which carries cargo and passengers and fights fires — has experienced an increase in demand as a result.
It’s also brought Buffalo and its staff a measure of fame.
“When I was in Red Deer, I was driving a Buffalo truck and some guys cut me off just to roll down the window and tell me how much they like the show.”
Filming for the first season occurred between October 2008 and last May. Work on Season 2 is expected to wrap up shortly, with the first of those episodes to premiere this fall.
McBryan said he’s been pleased with the televised product.
“They fly me down to Vancouver to watch all the episodes before they air to make sure they’re as accurate as possible.”
Buffalo, which has operated since 1970, has a long history at the Red Deer Regional Airport and bought a hangar there around 1993, said McBryan. That building is now used primarily for storage and heavy maintenance.
The two water bombers that Buffalo sold to Turkey were used mainly in the Northwest Territories and Alaska.
Ice Pilots NWT follows the success of History Television’s Ice Road Truckers.
“Everywhere you go, there’s a camera in the North,” said McBryan.