More flights to and from the Okanagan cancelled because of B.C. wildfires
BY PAUL JAMES, CLAIRE FENTON AND HANA MAE NASSAR | Posted Aug 3, 2021
FILE PHOTO (Courtesy Kelowna International Airport)
- Flights into, out of Kelowna International Airport cancelled Tuesday as White Rock Lake wildfire rages on
- Only flight into Penticton Tuesday morning also cancelled
- Kelowna airport says situation is being monitored ‘hour by hour’
KELOWNA (NEWS 1130) – Most passengers looking to fly into or out of Kelowna and Penticton have had to wait a bit longer as wildfires force both Okanagan airports to cancel flights.
Smoke from the White Rock Lake wildfire has been creating unsafe flying conditions for pilots, and first impacted travel at Kelowna International Airport Sunday night through to Monday afternoon.
“That has restricted the instrument approaches into the airport, and that has resulted in multiple cancellations over the last 24 hours,” YLW Senior Operations Manager Phillip Elchitz said Monday.
Cancellations were once again made Tuesday morning, with the majority of affected flights operated either by Air Canada or WestJet.
“We’re expecting it to be hour by hour,” Elchitz said of whether flights would resume Tuesday, adding “that’ll completely depend on the behaviour of the wildfire and our ability to work with the B.C. fire service.”
He explains the BC Wildfire Service places a “no-fly zone” in the vicinity of the fire. That zone is also right above the instrument approach into Kelowna International.
“Because of that no-fly zone, we can’t have any aircraft flying the instrument procedures into the airport, and as a result of that, the pilots aren’t able to shoot the approach into the facility,” he said.
According to Elchitz, the visibility at the airport was about 3/4 of a mile Monday afternoon.
Over the past several days, wildfire smoke forced the Penticton airport to cancel many of its flights, forcing many to find other options. As of 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, the only flight arriving that same morning — the 10:15 a.m. from Calgary — had been cancelled. Another flight, for later in the day, was still listed as “On Time.”
Meanwhile, the only flight into Kamloops Tuesday morning was also cancelled.
But starting at 3:00 p.m., flights for roughly 8,000 passengers trying to make their way out of Kelowna will resume.
Phillip Elchitz with the Kelowna Airport says the BC Wildfire Service has been able to condense its ‘no-fly zone’ around a nearby fire, allowing flights to resume in and out of Kelowna.
Elchitz does warn that plans could change if the nearby fire forces a re-expansion of the no-fly zone.
“If there is an expansion of the White Rock Lake fire to the east, it’ll close our approaches again so we’re really just monitoring the wildfire situation, and we’re hopeful that the fire will hold at its current location.”