If you’re looking for excitement, you might want to look up. Way up.
Bush pilots lead some of the most adventurous, not to mention treacherous, lives in the North. So, it’s about time somebody made a television show about these high-flying cowboys and cowgirls.
The newest CBC drama, Arctic Air, is an hour-long adventure series set in Yellowknife. It features a renegade bush airline and the colourful cast of characters who keep it flying.
Actor Adam Beach plays Bobby, son of a legendary Dene bush pilot, who returns to his roots after life as a Vancouver venture capitalist for a diamond exploration deal.
Kevin McNulty is Mel, a cantankerous old-school bush pilot, who is great at flying but not very good with business.
And Pascale Hutton plays Krista, Mel’s beautiful daughter, an ace pilot herself and possible rival/love-interest for Bobby.
Aside from the adventurous lives of pilots and those who love them, the show will also focus on the changes brought about by the recent exploration boom across the North.
It was a challenge filming in the North, said Ian Hay, a producer with the series.
“It takes some time to get your head around it. The logistics of getting up there and just dealing with the elements and the light,” he said.
“If you need a piece of equipment, it’s not as simple as running down to your local film equipment rental house.”
The crew often had to improvise, running down to Canadian Tire to jury-rig something up.
“But it sure beats the heck out of shooting in Vancouver five days a week, with the rain and the same old, same old all the time.”
While the majority of the interior shots are done in Vancouver studios, the cast and crew made about three trips up to Yellowknife, spending about 15 days shooting there.
Hay recalls having to stop and wait for a group of wood bison to cross the road while on his way to an early morning shoot.
This week Hay was just finishing up the last day of shooting before the new year in Vancouver when the News reached him to talk about the show.
The production has a series of sets in the studio, including an airport hangar, offices, a hotel and – that most ubiquitous of northern locales – the local bar.
They’ve also got the fuselage of a DC-3, minus the wings and tail, for all the interior shots of the plane.
But all of the high-flying action is the real deal.
“In my opinion, you can’t really fake it,” said Hay.
The film crew spent the majority of its time in the North getting aerial shots and filming the planes in flight.
The series’ first season will have 10 episodes.
Hay and the rest of the crew would love to continue on beyond that, but it will be up to CBC to decide if it wants to sign for a second season.
If there is a second season, the Yukon may get to make a cameo appearance.
“They’re flying, right, so there’s always talk about getting these guys out to different places,” said Hay.
“But you’ll have to talk to the writers about that.”
Arctic Air: Yukon has a nice ring to it.
The show premieres Jan. 10 at 9 p.m.
Contact Chris Oke at