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Wildfire smoke impacting flights at Penticton airport

Some flights have been cancelled at Penticton Regional Airport due to smoke blanketing the valley from wildfires raging in the U.S.
Some flights have been cancelled at Penticton Regional Airport due to smoke blanketing the valley from wildfires raging in the U.S. File / Global News

Smoke from U.S. wildfires is impacting flight operations at Penticton Regional Airport, which is already under landing restrictions due to the Christie Mountain wildfire.

Transport Canada, which owns and operates the small airport, says some flights are being impacted by the low visibility and ceiling “due to smoke throughout the South Okanagan.”

Two flights at YYF on Sunday, Sept. 13 were affected by the smoke.

Read more: Smoky skies smothering B.C.’s Southern Interior expected to last through Thursday

“Flight status” updates on Air Canada and WestJet websites show that at least four flights were cancelled on Monday, Sept. 14. The flights were scheduled to arrive and depart in Penticton.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Penticton’s airport is restricted to visual flight rules (VFR) due to the nearby Christie Mountain wildfire, which impacts landing and take-off procedures.

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VFR requires a pilot to be able to see outside the cockpit, to control the aircraft’s altitude, navigate, and avoid obstacles and other aircraft. Thick smoke can hinder the pilot’s ability to see the airport’s runway and safely land the plane.

Click to play video 'Okanagan residents urged to limit smoke exposure' Okanagan residents urged to limit smoke exposure
Okanagan residents urged to limit smoke exposure

“Transport Canada, in coordination with the BC Wildfire Service and NAV CANADA, issued a series of NOTAMs (Notice to Airmen) that are related to airspace and operational restrictions, which have been in place since August 18, 2020, when the wildfires started,” Transport Canada spokesperson Sau Sau Liu said in an email.

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“As a result of the current airspace restrictions, Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) procedures at the Penticton Airport are not authorized at this time.”

Westjet warns of the forest-fire related travel advisory on its website, stating it will impact travel to Penticton for the month of September.

The smoke is not impacting flights at Kelowna International Airport.