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Buffalo Airways grounded by Transport Canada over safety

All Buffalo Airways commercial air services have been suspended indefinitely by Transport Canada.

In a statement on Tuesday, Transport Canada said it had taken “serious action in the interest of public safety because of Buffalo Airways’ poor safety record”.

The federal department did not list specific infractions. In a news release, the airline said it was working to “resolve discrepancies” with federal authorities but did not elaborate on the nature of those issues.

Buffalo said it had been taking “great strides” to improve its operational safety in recent weeks. The airline’s suspension came into effect at the end of Monday, November 30, according to Transport Canada’s statement, and no flights are believed to have operated on Tuesday.

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In full: Transport Canada statement regarding Buffalo Airways

Transport Canada added it “will not allow Buffalo Airways to resume its commercial air service until it proves it can keep its operations consistently compliant with aviation safety regulations.

“Transport Canada takes its aviation safety oversight role very seriously and expects every air operator to fully comply with aviation safety regulations.

“When air operators, like Buffalo Airways, fail to comply with aviation regulations, the department takes appropriate action in the interest of public safety.”

The airline, which starred for six seasons in the hit reality TV show Ice Pilots NWT, is renowned for its fleet of ageing aircraft such as the Douglas DC-3 – a type which first flew in the 1930s.

On the day of Ice Pilots NWT’s final broadcast, in December 2014, a DC-3 experienced engine trouble shortly after departure from Hay River. It turned back and landed without any reported injuries.

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In September 2015, a Buffalo-operated Curtiss C-46 Commando dating to the 1940s was involved in a crash-landing in Deline. Nobody was hurt.

An incident in August 2013, where another Buffalo DC-3 suffered an engine fire on take-off from Yellowknife, drew criticism from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

Though the flight’s 21 passengers and three crew escaped unharmed, the TSB’s report listed a series of failings in the airline’s management and safety practices.

“The organizational culture at Buffalo Airways was not supportive of a system that required the organization to take a proactive role in identifying hazards and reducing risks,” said the report.

Transport Canada has not yet publicly outlined the steps Buffalo must take for its suspension to be lifted. However, the department says it has been working with the airline and will continue to do so.

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