Smoky conditions create difficulties for small plane pilots

Posted at 10:36 PM, Aug 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-24 00:41:15-04

Flying into the beautiful Idaho backcountry in the summer should be an enjoyable experience.

"Right now we fly a lot of guided raft trips, in fact most of the charter operators, that's the share of the business that they're doing right now. We also service a bunch of the ranches in the Frank Church Wilderness Area," said William Foote, chief pilot, SP Aircraft, Boise.  

He says visibility can be much less due to smoke from wildfires and they have a minimum visibility to fly. 

"The hard and fast rules are at least one mile of visibility in most of the areas are operated at. One mile of visibility is not very much at all," Foote.

Getting to those areas can be more taxing than normal. 

"The higher you go in the smoke, the harder it is to see the ground, you do want to be above terrain and things like that so it definitely is a huge role this time of year and it's very draining as a pilot," said Kyle Green, pilot, SP Aircraft. 

SP Aviation and Ponderosa aero club share a hanger in Boise and they also share frustration with the conditions. 

Janna greenhalgh- general manager- ponderosa aero club

Ponderosa Aero Club in Boise provides flight instruction. 

"And the visibility is too low for safe instruction. We have students, we have several students who are ready to finish up their training and become pilots and start flying," said Janna Greenhalgh, general manager, Ponderson Aero Club. 

Greenhalgh says instruction has been on hold for weeks and new members aren't able to join for the time being 

"We have ten airplanes that could be flying right now and none of them are," said Greenhalgh.

It's something that's taken day by day. 

"We're just ready for the smoke to leave," said Green.