“It’s been two years. Getting this trip is a monumental thing and I’m happy its first trip is to Norman Wells, which is really cool,” said Buffalo’s Mikey McBryan.
“Due to the backlog of freight for Norman Wells, we’re going to be doing hopefully two trips to Norman Wells tomorrow, maybe even three, depending. Next week, we start slowly bringing it into the fold doing the Edmonton-to-Yellowknife runs.”
One of the main aims in purchasing the jet, McBryan has previously said, is to bump up Buffalo’s capacity to bring freight from Alberta to the NWT.
On Thursday, he said the jet was also likely to help bring goods to Inuvik when breakup season makes the Dempster Highway temporarily impassable.
“We’ve got lots of work Edmonton north. It’s really good, we can keep it close to home for this first stretch,” he said of the plane.
McBryan describes the Boeing 737 as “multiple airplanes in one.” Its payload, just shy of 40,000 lb, is roughly the equivalent of Buffalo using one of its Lockheed Electras and a Curtiss C-46.
“This is two of our biggest airplanes in one, and we can do it burning 20 to 30-percent less fuel,” he said.
However, the arrival of the Boeing 737 does not mark the end of Buffalo’s famed wartime aircraft like the C-46, which was only ever produced between 1940 and 1945.
While Buffalo’s C-46 aircraft are each nearly 80 years old, planes that might be scrapped elsewhere are important cargo links in the NWT. Many northern communities’ gravel airstrips can’t be used by modern aircraft like the new 737.
“In 1986, Air Classics magazine said there was one C-46 left in Canada and they thought it was done,” said McBryan.
“In 1989, our operations manager Jeff Schroeder started flying the C-46, three years after that article – and he’s got the most time in the C-46 of anybody in history.
“Every time people count out the C-46, it keeps on going.”