eBay helps people find their version of perfect – even when their version of perfect is a multi-million-dollar firefighting airplane.
Mikey McBryan of the History Channel TV Show Ice Pilots was in search of a CL-215 airplane to help his family business expand their firefighting operation in 2011. They found one, used but in perfect condition, on eBay.ca – and bought it at auction for $445,000.
“This thing is complete. She’s all here. She’s absolutely beautiful,” McBryan says in the TV show, when he goes to pick up his new purchase.
McBryan works for Buffalo Airways, which specializes in cargo and passenger flights to communities in Canada's Northwest Territories (NWT). They also fly firefighting missions with aircraft equipped to drop thousands of gallons of water. For this, they need equipment – and resources.
"I use eBay daily," Mikey said. "It's basically a search engine and I'm constantly checking it for what we need."
The show documents the daily life of Buffalo Airways’ fleet of vintage cargo airplanes that are decades older than Mikey himself. Since 2009, people from all over the world have watched Mikey, his dad, and his siblings run the family business -- from how they operate in minus 50-degree Celsius temperatures to how they handle all kinds of extraordinary cargo requests.
In the episode, Mikey is seen bidding on a used CL-215 while his brother and father look on. The bid comes down to the final seconds. As they compete with another bidder, the price climbs, right to the wire.
"Pretty much for everybody in the NWT, eBay was their first e-commerce experience. Before Internet banking, before selling online, it was eBay. All of sudden there's a tool that opens the world to you -- so it was the first step in the north to trust the Internet."
Asked about the most amazing deal he's found on eBay, Mikey said it wasn’t the plane – it was a listing for $24,000 worth of parts that wound up being worth over 10 times that price.
Mikey says an airplane gets taken out of service every 3 years, so parts are like gold.
"It's similar to muscle cars," he said. "If all you have is parts and no car, you likely don't need them."
Another good deal Mikey got wasn't aircraft-related at all, but rather a lot of 54 different copies of the video game "NHL '94" for $2.50 each. This fueled Mikey's passion for the game – now, he's written and directed a documentary titled Pixelated Heroes due out this year.
"Those items aren't available in stores," he said, "so I'm on eBay constantly checking to see if I can find them. It's not really one person that has everything I want, but that every person on eBay may have something. It's like a time capsule – a magic door to look into."
You can download the full Ice Pilots season 3, episode 13 (titled “Coming Home”) from iTunes.