Former ‘Ice Pilot’ Scott Blue to Speak at EAA Museum

Scott Blue, EAA 1326730, who flew for Buffalo Airways in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, for a number of years and was featured on the television show Ice Pilots NWT during his time at Buffalo, will be speaking about his career and experiences in the cockpit on Thursday, January 16, at 7 p.m. as part of the EAA Aviation Museum Aviation Adventure Speaker Series.

Getting a relatively late start in aviation, Scott
began the process of earning his pilot certificate in his mid-20s. At 6-foot-7,
Scott was rejected from flying for the Canadian Forces because he was too tall,
but was eventually hired by Buffalo Airways, which was about to become the
focus of Ice Pilots NWT. Ice Pilots NWT, a TV show that
originally aired on History Television in Canada from 2009 to 2014 (and is
currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video), followed the pilots and
staff members of Buffalo Airways — a
company that flies vintage piston-and turboprop-powered airplanes in northern
Canada, regularly making supply runs to remote towns and other locations in
subzero temperatures and other extreme weather conditions.

“I just chipped away at my hours [after being rejected by
the military] and I finished that in about 2007,” Scott explained. “I got all
my commercial ratings, my multiengine, my IFR. And then I just started throwing
resumes out. And in 2007, it was a little bit different than it was now. There
wasn’t a pilot shortage and it was a little trickier to get a start. I sent out
probably about 40 resumes and two people got back to me, one company or two
companies, one company in Manitoba and then Buffalo up in Yellowknife.

“I was like, ‘Okay, well, Yellowknife sounds really
interesting.’ My friends raved about it as a town. And Buffalo flies old
awesome airplanes like World War II machines. I figured, hey, maybe I should go
and fly some of that stuff before it’s not flying anymore. So I packed my bags
and I hit the road and I drove across Canada. I think it’s about 3,000 miles or
so from Toronto up to Yellowknife. And I started working at Buffalo, with a
love of old World War II machines that were still chugging around the Arctic.”

Working at Buffalo Airways — which regularly operates
aircraft like the Douglas DC-3, Curtiss C-46 Commando, and Lockheed L-188
Electra, among others — was like walking through a time portal, as Scott

“It was a lot of work, it was exhilarating, and in a way
it was like stepping back in time,” Scott said. “A lot of those machines, maybe
not those ones specifically but those types, were used to build the DEW Line,
which is the Distant Early Warning Line, north of Yellowknife up on the Arctic
coast. That was an early warning radar system set up to detect Soviet missiles
back in the ’50s. My first day at Buffalo, I was in Hay River [Northwest Territories]
and I remember looking on the Buffalo website and seeing DC-3s and C-47s. I saw
the C-46, and I’ll be honest with you, I had no idea what a C-46 was until I
got up there and I saw this awesome old machine just land in Hay River my first
morning. And I was like, what is this thing?

“A bygone era like the C-46 doesn’t get much publicity,
certainly not anything close to in comparison to a DC-3, and I was just like, what
is this gnarly monster? It’s kind of like a giant DC-3. And I hopped in the cockpit
that morning, and the takeoff, it just shakes and rattles and rolls and you
can’t speak to one another in the cockpit. It’s so loud on takeoff you have to
use hand signals for gear up and flaps up on the power settings. It was just a
rush and I was kind of hooked at that point. I ended up working there for nine
years. It was a challenge working up there because of the conditions and the
temperatures, but we found a way to make it work. And they still do; they’re
still using the C-46 and a couple of DC-3s.”

While with Buffalo, Scott flew the C-46, Canadair CL-215,
Lockheed L-188 Electra, and a few other smaller aircraft. He also briefly flew
both the DC-3 and DC-4, though was never type rated. With the Ice Pilots NWT camera crew constantly
filming through the course of six years, that also added a certain dimension to
the job.

“The camera guys were all great guys and they knew to kind
of work around us when we were working hard. They, like I said, were great guys
and girls to work with. You just always had to be conscious that they were
there. You had to kind of watch; if you’re having a bad day, you didn’t want to
swear or lose your cool on television because the next thing you know, half a
million people or a million people or several million people are going to be
watching the show around the world and would see it. So they just kind of
followed you around. You were just yourself, on the day-to-day operations doing
your job. They would follow us around for hours and hours and hours and hours
of nothing going wrong, and then all of a sudden there’d be a mechanical hiccup
or a bad weather day or a rough morning or somebody was upset, and then they
were on you and just asking you questions and going from there. So you got used
to it after a while.”

Scott eventually left Buffalo Airways in April 2016 and has
since flown for the Newfoundland and Labrador government during the summers,
fighting forest fires, and has had a couple different positions during the

“I took a job out in Newfoundland for the Newfoundland
government, which is the most eastern province in Canada. I took a job with
them flying CL-415s, water bombers, kind of a turbine, newer version of the
CL-215. And I worked there in the summers and I have since. I’ll be going back
this year.

“And then for two winters, my first two winters after working with them, in the winter of 2016 and ’17, I went out to Vancouver and I flew a Beech 99 around the west coast of Canada, all over the mountains there to build my multi [engine] command times so I could become captain on the 415. I did that for a couple of years, and then now this year aviation wise, I’m high up in the Canadian Arctic working for another company based out of Yellowknife, flying a Dornier Do 228 in and out of communities, having fun.”

Thursday’s event is free for EAA members and just $5 for

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