Fire Restriction SNAFU Cancels B.C. Flights

A paperwork issue closed Kelowna and Penticton Airports in B.C. to airline traffic for more than three days because of a major forest fire raging to the west of the airport. Provincial government officials imposed a no-fly zone around the expanding White Rock Lake Fire that infringed on the approaches to both airports. There was never any safety issue for the airliners or the firefighting aircraft. With access to the approaches, aircraft from all the airlines serving the airports could have continued flying. A flurry of high-level bureaucratic activity solved the issue after three days of cancelled flights.

“Kelowna International Airport (YLW), working with the BC Wildfire Service, Nav Canada and Transport Canada have established interim measures to allow instrument approaches and departures to resume,” said Phillip Elchitz, senior operations manager for YLW. The deal pushed the boundary of the no-fly zone three kilometres and that gave enough room to re-open some of the approaches. The map line resulted in the cancellation of 54 flights carrying 8,000 passengers. The airlines scheduled extra flights to clear the backlog.