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Ice Pilot Lands a DC-3 Wheels Up

By Ian Brown, Editor - Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159

The iconic Canadian airline Buffalo Airways had an engine fire on takeoff of its DC-3 C-GWIR, forcing the pilot to return to the airport and land short. The quick-thinking pilot had little time to do anything other than "fly the plane." In this case, it appears he did not know if he would make the runway with gear down, so he left the gear up in order to glide as far as possible before landing short of the runway at Yellowknife with 21 passengers and three crew on board. Passengers mentioned being very close to hydro wires and clipping the treetops, so it seems that the no-gear landing might have saved the day. It has not been announced who was the pilot, but it was not thought to be Joe McBryan.

Owner "Buffalo Joe" said in an interview with CBC that he's been flying DC-3s for more than 40 years, and stated, "If you're going to have a problem with an aircraft and you want to walk away from an accident, that's the best plane to be in." He's fully confident that the aircraft involved in the accident will fly again.

None of the passengers or crew was injured in the landing. The DC-3 gear does not fully retract, so a gear up landing still has the lower part of the tires exposed, which does seem to support the idea that if you're going for a wheels-up landing, a DC-3 would be a good choice.

C-GWIR On Its Belly

This aircraft is actually a C-47 rebuilt by Douglas Aircraft and classed as a DC-3C, the modified military version with a cargo door and a strengthened floor, which obviously suits the cargo hauling needs of Buffalo Airways. The aircraft looks in fairly good shape in the photograph, so maybe it will fly again with the necessary rework.

It was two years, almost to the day, that a First Air 737 went down in Resolute Bay, killing 12 of 15 on board including crew. Latest on that accident is that it was deemed to be controlled flight into terrain and the pilots were attempting a go-around in poor weather.

Interestingly, one episode of the show, Ice Pilots, also had a gear-up landing in Turkey, when the water bomber they had just delivered was used for training flights flown by the local pilots.


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