Photos © Ruud Leeuw

My visit to Buffalo Airways (Red Deer,ALB 2006)

One of the very few remaining operators utilizing a fleet of classic radial transports with a degree of success is Buffalo Airways. I was heading for their main operating base Yellowknife,NWT but on 27Jun06 I had an opportunity to visit their maintenance and storage facility at Red Deer Industrial Airport.
Unfortunately I found no one of Buffalo Airways around to talk to (I had made no prior arrangements), but there was plenty to feast my eyes on.

CF-VQV On a previous visit (1999) of mine I had found quite a number of DC-3's, owned by Buffalo Aws, had been stored outside in a neat row here, but this has apparently been reduced and regrouped around and in their hangar.
CF-VQV

CF-VQV (c/n 3264) is surviving, but only barely...; it is one of very few surviving DC-3-DST's. This aircraft was delivered to United Air Lines in November 1940!

But the missing parts are not lost!
Parts of CF-VQV

A DC-3-DST !!!
The history of this Douglas DC-3A DST-A-207C, according to the big DC-3 book by Air-Britain (1984) is:
Delivered as NC25620 to United Air Lines on 14Nov40 and impressed to the war effort, to the USAAF as 42-38326 (designated a C-48B) on 17Mar42.
It joined the Alaska Wingg ATC in April 1942 and went to warmer parts of this world: to Africa on 12Oct43.
It was returned to United Air Lines on 17Jun44 (NC25620) and named Mainliner "Toledo".
Ford Motor Company of Dearborn,MI bought it on 18Jun49 and reregistered it as N301K.
It accepted its Canadian identity CF-VQV for Nat'l Aviation Consultants on 10Aug67. On 21Feb68 this changed again when P.Olesik registered it to his name.
Associates Acceptance Company however, took ownership on 01Nov68.
Things semed to turn for the better again when Arctic Outpost Camps Ltd of Edmonton,ALB bought it in June 1970. but the license lapsed on 24May75 and it was found languishing at Edmonton in 1980. However, CF-VQV did return to service with Arctic at some point afterwards.
I checked the Transport Canada website at the time of writing (Dec.2006) and found CF-VQV was registered on 18Jun70 to Arctic Outpost Camps Ltd, care of McBrian Bros Avn Ltd, Hay River.
And I noticed Joe McBryan has put it up for sale: details

C-GBAJ Tanker 14 Career of this propliner got under way when Douglas C-54E c/n 27328 (linenumber 274) was delivered to the USAAF as 44-9102 on 26Apr45; it was transferred to the US Navy (BuNo 90402) that same date and it was converted to C-45R.
During 1970 it was stored in the well-known storage yards of Davis-Monthan AFB, in de Arizona desert.
Aero Union Corporation bought it on 13Dec74 and completed a makeover to Tanker 14, tailnumber N62297.
During the early-1990s it was put up for sale, but continued to operate for Aero union and fight large forest fires.
During the winter of 2001/02 the tanksystem was modified, replacing the 1980s technology 8-door system with the RADS-II computer-controlled 12-door type (N62297 was the last Aero Union airtanker requiring this modification).
And then Aero Union cleaned out these Douglas DC-4's...
N62297 was bought by Buffalo Airways, registering C-GBAJ on 15Dec05.
Dirk Septer came across Tanker 14 at Hay River, seemingly stored.
C-GBAJ Tanker 14 As one can see underneath the aircraft, the tank (the socalled "million-dollar-tank") was not included in the deal.
This winter it is expected to be ferried to either Hay River (Buffalo Airways' maintenance base) or Yellowknife (main operating base but also with maintenance facilities) and be converted to airtanker again (with a conventional 8-door tank).
It should be ready, in Buffalo Airways livery, in time for the 2007 firefighting season.
C-GBAJ Tanker 14 Tailnumber C-GBAJ has been painted on rather crudely and its days in the well-known Aero Union colours are almost over.

C-FFAY Sitting in metallic finish and most parts missing is C-FFAY; this is a C-47 with c/n 4785.
This C-47 Skytrain wore the following talnumbers in its past career: 41-18624 (USAAF), NC57540 (Compagnia Bananera de Costa Rica, San Jose,Costa Rica, 1953), YV-C-AVB (Avensa, 1957), YV-C-LBE (LEBCA), YV-C-TCB (Transcarga, 1969), N47218 (Aero American Corp., 1971) and CF-FAY (Astro Aviation of Red Deer,ALB reg'd 29Nov72).
As CF-FAY it was also registered to Sterling Air Services (Red Deer, 1972), Lambair Ltd (1973) and as C-FFAY it was reregistered in 1975.
It continued after an unactive period, with Perimeter Airlines (1981) and in 1990 to David E.Knox (trading as Knox Air Service of Carberry,MAN.) registering on 30May90.
C-FFAY was registered on 09Feb95 to Buffalo Airways.

Sean Keating sent me a 1989 photo of C-FFAY, operated by Perimeter Airlines:look here...

CF-YQG The tailnumber C-FYQG is hardly visible anymore; it is a former Navy R4D-1 with c/n 4654. But there was more !

This ("Ready For Duty") R4D-1 was delivered to the USMC (MAW-1) on D28Aug42; it served with VMJ-152 and VMJ-253.
Its military career ended in 1946 and as NC62001 it became registered to Crane Co. in 1951. Later, at some unspecified date) it became N99U for the Beldex Corporation, again later solde to John F.Oster Manufacturing Company of Pittsburgh in June 1963.
It crossed the border into Canada for Ontario Central Air Lines as CF-YQG (21Jul69); it was reregistered as C-FYQG in 1980.
'YQG was bought by Nunasi-Central Airlines Ltd, registered on 26Jun84 and cancelled 09Oct96.
Note: it has panoramic windows! And the wings are square tipped!

Upon a REVISIT IN 2007 I found the Douglas DC-3's had been moved about and hangar cleaned up.

C-FDTH
Joe McBryan's love for vintage airliners such as the Douglas DC-3 is legendary!
That is why I was not surprised to find 2 DC-3's stored in the hangar, plus a huge selection of spare parts.
C-FDTH
C-FDTH   plenty of props too !
Cabin
Cockpit
Cockpit (large)
cabin, aft
Plenty of spare parts Jeff Rankin-Lowe provided the following aviation history for C-FDTH (c/n 12591) :

- delivered to USAAF as C-47A-15-DK, s/n 42-92755, 22.2.44
- t/o/s by RCAF as Dakota Mk III, s/n KG479, 7.3.44
- to 32 OTU (RAF)*, 1944
- stored, 24.4.44
- s/o/s by RCAF, 19.2.46
- to Trans-Canada Air Lines as DC-3, CF-TEB, 14.9.46
- to Department of Transport as DC-3A-456, CF-DTH, 11.1.61
- reregistered as C-FDTH, 1976
- used by Canadian Coast Guard** for anti-pollution patrols and ice reconnaissance
- reported wfu 1995
- sold to Buffalo Airways as DC-3A-456, C-FDTH, 16.3.96 (or) 12.5.98 [sources disagree]
- noted stored (engineless; Red Deer Alberta), 7.03
- noted in Buffalo Airways hangar (engineless; Red Deer, Alberta), 8.04

* 32 OTU was an RAF training unit located in Canada.
** CCG is part of DoT

C-FDTB C-FDTB can be read on this Douglas C-47, stored in the back of this hangar.
If you want to buy it, don't expect it to get rolled out for better few, in a matter of minutes...
The c/n of this "DC-3C-S1C3G" is 12597 and it was manufactured in 1943.

Joe McBryan, 'head honcho' of Buffalo Airways, also has a keen interest in cars:Vintage car   Vintage car

C-FDTB Delivered as 42-92761, it went to Canada as KG485 for the RCAF, on 10Mar44.
It became CF-TEC for Trans Canada, marked "76" and later "376" (delivery 16May46).
It became CF-DTB for the Department of Transport on 19Mar58, later revised to C-FDTB in 1975.

It was registered to Buffalo Airways on 09Feb95.

I noticed this Beech 18 in the back of the hangar but there was so much clutter around, I did not investigate further.
Aad van der Voet (of OldWings.nl) offered help in identifying it:
Beech "I was at Red Deer on 02Jun06 and saw the same Beech 18 there in the Buffalo hangar. Rear fuselage was stripped of all paint (except for the door), but the forward fuselage still had the remains of a white colour scheme with a thin blue cheatline. It's under restoration, outer wings were separate, no engines.
With some effort I managed to get closer and inspected the data plate. It's msn CA-226 and it still carried its former RCAF serial '1503' on the fin."
Later Aad added: "The identification plates of this plane were found in about the usual place on the rear fuselage. These identify this aircraft as CA-226. Perhaps the other numbers and conversion info shown here may also help to solve a bit of a mystery, as the airframe also carried '1503' and is supposed to be c/n CA-103...
Perhaps identifications were compromised way back in the early 1970s?"

Bob Parmerter, author of "Beech 18, A Civil and Military History", had this to say: "I too doubt the CA-226 identity since the Buffalo Airways hangar photo paintscheme looks just like a May72 slide of CF-QMF... John Hume contacted Joe McBryan of Buffalo Airways last year, and he says that "..it is CF-QMF that is in his hangar. He also notes that he & David From were the only two to have flown it since RCAF release (about 1,300 hrs)."
"The FAA file shows that CA-226 had a cargo door installed in Nov74 while the Buffalo Airways a/c seems to have a standard oval cabin pax door. The vertical stabilizer with RCAF 1503 on it could have come from A-703 N3126B since the etched 1503 could show up on the bare metal tail after paint was removed."
"I don't know anything about the whereabouts of A-703 after 1970. It is common to interchange the vertical & horizontal stabilizers and even the outer wings on Beech 18s, esspecially after accidents such as the one CF-QMF had..."
John Hume also contacted the curator at the Aerospace Museum of Calgary who notes that they have nothing to do with CF-QMF.

C-GYFM C-GYFM, Canso Air Tanker Birddog.
So how does this work: does a leadplane gets retired when the planes it has lead (Catalina's) go into retirement ???

In June 2007 Jürgen Scherbarth wrote me:
"Last month a friend of mine and myself made a tour to Western Canada and the Northern Territories (Yellowknife and Hay River). As a result of this trip I've generated a small list on Buffalo Joe's fleet (in ms excel) of aircraft over the last couple of years. There may be still some gaps, especially on smaller aircrafts pre 1976/77. Maybe someone can help with the missing ones in future...?
Please feel free to use this information to update your Buffalo Airways page of your visit in 2006.
The only question we could not solve, was the source (donor) of the new tail section for C-46 C-FAVO after the taxiway accident at YZF, maybe one of the Fairbanks wrecks?
Btw, former Aero Union tanker 13 DC-4 C-FBAK is definitely at Hay River, but without engines an avoid of any registration, just the 13 on the tail..."

tanker 714 C-FPQM is Canso PBY-5A c/n CV-425.
The days of these flying boats working as Airtankers, fighting the large forest fires, are over; their role have been taken over by (e.g.) other scoopers such as the Canadair CL-215 (becoming a classic in itself) and the CL-415.

The Consolidated Vultee PBY-5A, also known as the Canso, was originally designed and built for the military as a submarine patrol aircraft. It is fully amphibious, allowing it to take-off or land on ground or water, plus it had the ability to search the world’s oceans for enemy submarines for up to 18 (!) hours without refueling.
When these aircraft left military service, they were either used to carry passengers to/from water destinations, or were converted to the water bombing role... The addition of two 400-gallon water tanks and a water pickup probe permitted the Canso to scoop 800-gallon loads of water off a lake near the forest fire and drop the loads in very quick succession.
Buffalo Airways operated 4 such water bombers and retrofitted them with up-to-date technology in bombing- and computerized foam-injection systems. The Canso proved to be a very important resource for protecting the Northern forests.
More than 300 examples of the Catalina were built by Canadian Vickers and subsequently named named 'Canso'.


Maybe I should have gone in, but I found no one to ask permission to do this and I had a distinct feeling of trespassing inside this hangar. The caretaker was out to lunch probably and I was feeling the pressure of a tight schedule, with a visit planned this same afternoon at the Reynolds Transportation Museum at Wetaskiwin.
But maybe I should have gone in for some photos.. !@*#*!!
"MountainAven Protecting N.W.T. Beauty"
C-FPQM

The following I found on the Catalina Society News (Oct.2006 issue):
"This former RCAF Canso A C-FPQM, until recently part of the Buffalo Airways fleet at Red Deer, has been acquired by pilot Patrick White and, after a period of maintenance, it is flying again!
It is intended to participate in the 2007 Flying Boat Festival Int'l which is to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first trans-Atlantic experimental commercial flight. The celebrations will be centred on Botwood in Newfoundland, but as part of the event it is planned that a re-enactment of that flight to Ireland will be made by a Catalina!"
More on this: www.transatlanticflightpby.com

Unfortunately there seems to be no happy end to this anniversary flight... I found this published on www.ganderbeacon.ca/index.cfm?iid=2755&sid=24230 in Sep.2007
"Early last month, Northwest Territories’ airline Buffalo Airways launched a lawsuit against Patrick White, seeking damages for an aircraft it said it loaned to Mr. White last year as a “showpiece” for him to raise funds for his re-enactment of the 70th anniversary of the first commercial test flights across the Atlantic.
Among the claims, the airline alleges Mr. White ordered repairs to the aircraft without authorization from the airline and exposed the plane to harsh weather conditions despite agreeing to keep the plane in a “climate-controlled environment” since it was “sensitive to the elements.”
The airline also alleges, since it did not authorize repairs, maintenance performed on the aircraft would not have been according to Transport Canada regulations.
In court documents filed Aug. 24, and obtained by The Beacon last week, Mr. White claims he did not borrow the plane, but rather reached an agreement with Buffalo Airways to purchase the plane, instead.
In fact, Mr. White claims he offered $250,000 to the airline to purchase the aircraft, the airline agreed to the offer and, subsequently, delivered the plane to Mr. White “in exchange for a deposit if $5,000 in cash paid in November 2005 and work valued at $12,000 provided by Mr. White,” which was performed at the airline’s facility in Yellowknife, N.W.T.
Mr. White’s statement of defence states he did arrange for repairs to the aircraft in connection with the purchase of the plane.
Additionally, it states, because the required Transport Canada documentation had not been submitted with the plane, “it was necessary to consult with the (airline) on the nature of the extent of such repairs and maintenance,” which were performed “with the knowledge and co-operation of the (airline) and in accordance with the applicable requirements of the Canadian Aviation Regulations.”
The defendant also states there was never an agreement to keep the aircraft in a climate-controlled environment, as stated in the airline’s lawsuit. It also states the plane had not been stored in a similar environment when in the possession of the airline, and the plane was stored indoors in an unheated hangar in Gander during the winter and was moved outside during the spring.
The airline alleges in its lawsuit the windshield of the aircraft had been damaged. In his statement of defence, Mr. White acknowledges the damage, adding the airline was notified when it happened. It continues by stating the defendant carried out a temporary repair and would replace the windshield once a new one was supplied by the airline."

Counterclaim

"The counterclaim, filed by Mr. White, Exploits Valley Air Services (EVAS) and Gander Aerospace Manufacturing alleges, among other allegations, Buffalo Airways attempted to repudiate the purchase agreement in June by requiring the purchase funds to be paid in full “prior to the title being passed,” and asked for the spare parts to be purchased separately or returned.
In his statement of defence, Mr. White claimed the airline agreed it would be paid when the funds came in from sponsors of the re-enactment and following the flight.
Other claims made in the countersuit include: the plaintiffs have a binding agreement to purchase the aircraft and the airline should be ordered to complete the Department of Transportation documentation to pass title to EVAS; the remainder of the agreed upon purchase price be paid from proceeds of the re-enactment flight; Buffalo Airways holding the title of the aircraft caused EVAS to abort the re-enactment flight, subsequently causing Mr. White and EVAS to suffer damages, including costs associated with researching and planning the flight, loss of sponsorship opportunity, loss of reputation, and other damages that “are greater than the remaining purchase price agreed to be paid by EVAS” to Buffalo Airways for the plane; and the actions of Buffalo Airways have been “high-handed, capricious, arbitrary and designed to harm the interests of the plaintiffs.”
As a result of the allegations made in the countersuit, the plaintiffs seek a declaration that EVAS has a binding agreement to purchase the plane and its spare parts and an order requiring Buffalo Airways to take all steps necessary to deliver the necessary documentation required by Transport Canada.
The list of damages sought by the plaintiffs also include: damages for costs of researching the flight, loss of sponsorship opportunity, loss of reputation; compensation to cover costs to make the plane airworthy; damages to cover costs of the counterclaim and solicitor; and other compensation deemed necessary by the court."

A sad state of affairs...

C-GFFCI found on the Catalina Society News (Oct.2006 issue): "..despite Buffalo’s disposals, they acquired the former SLAFCO Catalina C-GFFC some time back and after remaining at its former base at Moses Lake,WA for some time, it was flown, date unknown, to Red Deer,ALB where it currently resides."

But the mecanic working on repairs here (damaged during a storm by ground equipment), was hired by a new owner and expected the Catalina to be ferried to the Eastcoast shortly (see below).

Catalina Society News (Feb07 issue) contained following info:
"On 31Oct06 reg C-GFFC was cancelled from the Canadian register upon sale to the USA although no US marks or its new owner are yet known. Prior to cancellation, it was ferried to a new home at Sanford,ME where it will be restored for new owner Jim Knowles. Part of the project will be to re-install blisters and bow turret although the latter is a long-term goal at present. Just after arrival at Sanford, it was hangared.
Its designation OA-10A is in real doubt as it is officially registered with the construction number ‘013’ which is not a ‘real’ Catalina c/n and it is usually also quoted as CV-483 which was a Canadian Vickers-built USAAF OA-10A, serial 44-33972, reportedly scrapped. It seems likely that some ‘creative paperwork’ by a post-war conversion company was responsible for the confused pedigree of this Cat and the real identity may never be known!"

C-GFFC
Firefoam 104
C-GFFC tanker 766
Some last repairs Warbirdregistry.org had the following info on offer: Construction number CV-483 and delivered to USAAF as 44-33972.
It was registered as CF-IFW by an unknown party at an unknown date...
Northern Wings Ltd of Quebec bought it in 1965 and 4 years later Universal Air Leasing Co. of Grand Blanc,MI purchased it (1969);
it was registered as N3202.
Flying Fireman of Victoria,BC owned it from June 1975 to 1988 and had it registered as C-GFFC, flying it as Tanker 6.
In 1988 it was taken over by Awood Air Ltd of Victoria,BC but this lasted only intil 1989.
Robert P. Schlaefli of SLAFCO Inc. (Moses Lake,WA) owned it from 1991 until at least 2004.
And as mentioned earlier, it was sold again and awaiting a ferry flight out of here.
In close up

North Star cockpit Somewhat ashamed I must admit that I was preoccupied with making my way to the Reynolds Transportation Museum further up north, and I completely forgot to check for this North Star cockpit !!
I knew it was lying around at the airport somewhere, but after my visit with Air Spray and Buffalo (and feeling the effect of a skipped lunch), I just drove off...
But Arnold Begeman was more thorough and he photographed it on 25Jun06. It was a good thing he did, because when he checked again on 01Oct06... it was gone !

Arnold returned to Red Deer in Jan.2007 and reported the cockpit back in position, apparently it had spent some time in Buffalo's hangar. Here is a photo which Arnold made in Jan.2007:
Jan.2007 by A.Begeman

Fortunately I found an opportunity to revisit Red Deer in 2007 and that time I did not forget to photograph the Canadair North Star!

Norseman CF-UUD This one I missed too, but I feel less guilty: the Sky Wings hangar was closed and this Noorduyn Norseman UC-64A CF-UUD (c/n 224) was hidden from sight. But Arnold Begeman did spot it and sent me these photos.
Arnold added: "the special thing about this plane is that it is not covered with linnen but with aluminum! (But on his visit in Jan.2007 he touched it and reported a "Dracon fiber feeling; it was also on skis at that time").
During my visit to the hangar I was told that this plane seldom flies; the owner Glen Crandall is over seventy years old now, lives in Ponoka; at the airfield of Ponoka he has a small oldtimer plane (a Champion?) in the same colours as this Norseman. And about twice a year he wil fly his Champion to Red Deer airport, change to the Norseman and take it up for a spin, lands at Red Deer and returns to Ponoka the way he came!"
CF-UUD by Arnold Begeman
The Transport Canada website showed the info that it was registered to Glen Crandall on 02Jun93 and the last Certificate of Registration dates from 29May05.
This plane was built in 1942.

Back to CANADA -2006-


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