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There’s a new aviation reality show on the tube. The first two episodes of Plane Xtreme aired on The Weather Channel this past Monday night, and will repeat on Friday at 9:00 and 9:30 PM. The show features the pilots of Wings of Eagles–the outfit I deliver planes for.

Plane Xtreme

As the description on The Weather Channel’s web site puts it:

“Plane Xtreme chronicles the adventures of an elite group of pilots who deliver small aircraft to points across the globe. They are required to fly small planes in ways they were never designed – pushing the limits of both man and machine. Battling deadly weather conditions, with no de-icing and no oxygen, these fearless adrenaline junkies risk it all and write their own rules as they bravely take on situations most pilots spend their lives avoiding.”

Despite my aversion to reality TV, I watched both episodes Monday night to see how closely the production conformed to reality. For the most part I was pleasantly surprised. All the events they portrayed really did happen (not always the case with reality TV), and they got the personalities of the players down pretty well.

Steve and Dave in particular were well presented. Steve really is up at all hours checking weather for his pilots, and Dave does have serious reservations about leaving his wife and daughter. The episode with him getting to St. Johns and having doubts really happened as shown. (Of course, they left out that it was the film crew’s emphasis on the danger of the flight that started the erosion of his confidence … normally Dave completes the flights he starts.)

Plane Xtreme Cessna

The other flights seemed to be pretty standard fare for ferry flying. Weather is always a factor regardless of the flying you’re doing. Thunderstorms are a pretty common occurrence on many of the routes we fly. For the most part they aren’t a huge problem.

I think one of the greatest challenges for ferry pilots is the lack of current charts (or any charts for that matter). Also, a lack of local knowledge is tough when you get close to your destination. Local pilots get pissed when you miss common reporting points or botch the standard radio calls. It’s also nice to know where that hill is that everyone flies into. GPS with moving maps has helped a lot with this problem.

Plane Xtreme - Steve

I worked with the film crew a little bit over the summer and I didn’t like the emphasis on the dangerous aspects of the job. I suppose that’s show biz for you for you: drama sells. Luckily, The Weather Channel has less interest in drama then some of the other channels, and I have high hopes that this show will stay closer to the truth than most of the “reality” TV shows out there. The first two episodes seem to support my hopes in this regard.

The most fun working with the crew was shooting the air-to-air shots, flying in formation with Dave on the leading edge of a pretty impressive thunderstorm. That was fun. The helicopter pilot flying the camera ship actually got nervous at one point and requested that we fly a little looser formation. Just when we were having so much fun …

(Photos copyright © The Weather Channel)

Learn More

If you’re interested in seeing what ferry flying is all about, watch Plane Xtreme on the Weather Channel. The show airs on Mondays at 9 PM with repeats on Fridays. Check your local listings to be sure.

It looks like they’ve filmed four 30-minute episodes so far. Aidan’s in the episode that airs next week, called “Double Delivery,” in which he and another pilot deliver two Caravans to Nairobi.

You can learn more about the show, and watch previews, on the Plane Xtreme section of Weather.com. They’re airing a bunch of other oddball flying aviation shows too: Coast Guard Alaska, Coast Guard Florida, Hawaii Air Rescue, Hurricane Hunters, and Ice Pilots. We’ll review these shows in the future!

– Mike

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6 Responses to “Review: Plane Xtreme (new reality show on The Weather Channel)”

  1. Fred Aleman says:

    The show has potential..I had problems with the second episode when they were getting smoke from the plane and they still took off.

  2. Alvin Merculief says:

    I was really impressed and captured by the programs, really neat stuff! I agree with you Fred, departing with the electrical problem had the hair on my head standing, electrical problems in flight are terrifying.

  3. Ken Gott says:

    I too echo Fred on the smoke issue. I’m a new pilot but know enough that smoke is a bad thing. Although this show may be better than average in keeping the drama to a more realistic level, it is still there. Drama and suspense do sell, I suppose, but it has killed a number of shows with great potential. Think “Top Shot” for instance.

  4. Jess LaFevre says:

    I watched the show and it totally copied The Discovery Channel CA show Dangerous Flights. ?

  5. Tom Engdahl says:

    This show is really doing a disservice to safe pilots. These guys are idiots or over sensationalizing the flights. Safe pilots don’t fly into known iceing situations. When ATC has to tell a pilot to turn around, the pilot did not plan well or understand the weather situation. Again just trying to gain ratings…..

  6. Dennie says:

    I watched the episodes while I was in the hospital recovering from a total hip replacement surgery. They ran at about 2 or 3 am in the morning.. Very interesting shows. I liked the episode where he delivered a plane to a flying school in Chile I believe. I don’t know if the morphine made them interesting or what. All I know is they were good TV.

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