Smoke is causing some flights to divert from Kamloops and Penticton to Kelowna Airport | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna News

Smoke is causing some flights to divert from Kamloops and Penticton to Kelowna Airport

Image Credit: WestJet

Three WestJet flights attempting to fly into Kamloops or Penticton over the past three days have been diverted to Kelowna.

Two were headed to Kamloops and one to Penticton.

“Most of the time it’s preplanned the day of,” Phillip Elchitz, senior manager of airport operations for Kelowna Airport told “The airline will check the visibility at Kamloops and, if the visibility is below the minimums at that time, they’ll simply plan for the diversion in advance.”

That means that Westjet had to bus passengers from those flights to their destinations plus they had to bus those passengers who had expected to fly out of those two cities into Kelowna.

It’s not unusual for flights to be diverted to Kelowna Airport, Elchitz said. It happens most often in the winter when fog or heavy snow reduces visibility in Kamloops or Penticton. It has also happened in previous years when there was heavy wildfire smoke.

Kelowna has navigational equipment that allows fights to land and take off in worse conditions than in Kamloops or Penticton. Most planes with the right technology on board can land when the visibility is down to one-half mile or the cloud ceiling is down to 251 feet above the runway.

Limits are higher in Kamloops and Penticton.

Elchitz expects these periodic diversions to continue to happen this summer, depending on smoke conditions.

Given that Kelowna Airport is operating far below capacity because of COVID, there is plenty of room to park the extra aircraft, he said. Even at full capacity, there’s plenty of overflow aircraft parking available.

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