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Former Buffalo Airways chief pilot dead at 69
'Buffalo' Joe says Arnie Schreder's talent won't be duplicated in Yellowknife

Galit Rodan
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, May 9, 2012

If Ol' Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra had been a Northern pilot, he might have been Arnold Schreder.

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Arnold Schreder, former chief pilot at Buffalo Airways, died in British Columbia on Saturday. A memorial will be held Saturday at the Buffalo Airways hangar. - photo courtesy of Ice Pilots NWT/Facebook

The calm, self-assured pilot was as smooth with an airplane as Sinatra was with a tune and he had the pale blue eyes to boot.

"He had that sparkle," said his eldest daughter Yvette.

Schreder, the former chief pilot with Buffalo Airways and one of the stars of the hit History Channel show Ice Pilots NWT, died Saturday morning at the age of 69.

Schreder retired in 2010, during the second season of the show, after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

He took a turn for the worse early Saturday morning and checked into a British Columbia hospital around 2 a.m. Five hours later he died.

"It was kind of a blessing because he didn't actually suffer," said Yvette. "He just went to sleep and so he didn't actually have to go through all the pain of everything we expected was coming."

Born in 1942 in Kingston, Ont., Schreder obtained his private pilot's licence in Saskatchewan at the age of 17. He also completed a nursing degree while obtaining his commercial licence.

Of the two professions, flying stole his heart and over the next 50 years he clocked approximately 38,000 hours in the air, said Yvette.

"I've known him probably close to 40 years," said "Buffalo" Joe McBryan Tuesday. "In a professional sense, I could say it would be many, many, many years before Yellowknife sees another pilot of that calibre but I would say they won't see one ... I've been around Yellowknife Bay long enough to know that's not going to be duplicated, that kind of talent."

One of the things that distinguished Schreder from other pilots was his versatility, said McBryan.

"He was able to adapt to many types of flying, from light to heavy airplanes, from the dark, frozen high Arctic to the heat of a raging forest fire in the southern part of Canada and everything in between ... From spray planes to jets to heavy turbo props, he was very good on all of them. His aptitude for it was remarkable."

But what stood out even more than his talent as a pilot was his ability as an instructor.

"He was an instructor's instructor," said McBryan. "We used him as a training pilot on DC-3s, DC-4s, C-46s, CL-215 water bombers, Lockheed Electras, King Airs, everything. And he trained all the pilots in all phases."

Most of his time was spent mentoring young pilots, imparting his convictions about the importance of flying the North "the correct way," said his daughter. "Young pilots, if they did something wrong, he told them and worked with them until they got it right," she said.

Recently, Schreder received an e-mail from a Las Vegas-based commercial pilot named Mieke Malin, whom he mentored in 1981 when he owned a flying school called Yellowknife Air Services.

The young woman had sent resumes all across Canada. The only response she received came from Schreder, who offered her a job and welcomed her into the home he shared with his wife and children when she had no place to stay.

"Much of my success I dedicate to you and the Arctic for teaching a young woman what it truly takes to become a pilot: desire and dedication, honesty and hard work, study and sacrifice and most of all a good sense of humour," Malin wrote. "I'm sure that to you I was just another dumb kid on the block but you were a gift from God to me."

Even later on in life, his house was always filled with young pilots, said Yvette, who described her father as having a "no-frills demeanour, happy and fun-loving, yet stern when needed."

He was a family man who was close with his two daughters, Yvette and Donna, and four stepchildren, Bret, Kaitlyn, Chad and Kyle.

"It's one thing to be a stepfather but it's quite another to step up to the plate and be a real father," said Kaitlyn after Schreder's death.

Condolences have flooded in from friends, former students and fans from around the world - including Australia, Sweden and England - since news of the Schreder's death spread across the Internet.

Hundreds of comments were written on Ice Pilots NWT's Facebook page, as well as Schreder's personal and fan pages. Many people wrote to say Schreder had been their favourite character on Ice Pilots. Others praised his talent, calling him a legend.

A small service will be held in Kelowna, B.C., Thursday at 11 a.m. The family has chartered a Buffalo DC-3 plane and a crew of young pilots Schreder mentored, as well as some family members, will be flying to Kelowna from Yellowknife.

They will return Friday with Schreder's ashes and a large memorial will take place at the Buffalo Airways hangar at 2 p.m. Saturday.

"I think that's what he deserves," said Yvette. "We're going to come and get him in the plane he flew and bring him home."

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