Vernon airport traffic down 70 per cent thanks to wildfire smoke | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon airport traffic down 70 per cent thanks to wildfire smoke

The Vernon Airport is located on Tronson Road, near Okanagan Lake.
August 20, 2018 - 5:30 PM

VERNON - Wildfire smoke is having a big impact on traffic at the Vernon airport.

Vernon Regional Airport supervisor Ian Adkins says flight traffic was down about 70 per cent because of the smoke and lack of visibility.

The airport would ordinarily see around 2,500 take-offs and landings per month during July and August when the airport is at its busiest, but so far there have only be about 1,000.

Adkins says the airport, which is owned by the City of Vernon, would be affected financially due to a loss of landing and take-off fees, as well as a loss of fuel sales.

The airport has lost all of its recreational traffic because pleasure pilots generally don't have a licence that allows them to fly in such conditions, as well as the fact it simply isn't fun to fly in the smoke, he says.

Adkins says the reduction in flight traffic varies from airport to airport depending on what the pilots and the plane are rated to fly in. Pilot licences have different rating classifications and specify what conditions a pilot is allowed to fly in.

The airport also has a rating of elevation in which a plane can fly using instruments until the pilot has to take over. Unlike large international airports where pilots can use their instruments until a plane is at a very low elevation, the situation at a small airport like Vernon is quite different.

Adkins says at the Vernon airport pilots can fly to 1,500 feet just using their instruments, but below that they need visuals, which can become difficult in all the smoke. Larger commercial planes also have instruments that allow them to fly to lower elevations, while the small six- to eight-passenger planes that land and take-off from Vernon don't have such instruments.

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