Smoke Grounds Flights in Grants Pass

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MERLIN, Ore. — The thick smoke from the wildfires burning in Southern Oregon has limited the visibility at the Grants Pass Airport, allowing some flights to take off while others are grounded.

Visibility was limited to between 6 and 10 miles Tuesday afternoon, as another smoky day continued cancelations of flight lessons.

“This is our prime time,” Pacific Aviation Co-owner, David Traeger, said. “We have usually several full days, seven days a week, of airplanes flying, instructors flying. Since the smoke came in last Monday, they’ve all been canceled.”

Pacific Aviation offers classes for pilots in training to learn how to fly. The limited visibility has allowed for less than ideal conditions and as a result, the classes have been canceled.

“It’s very important for a student, especially starting out, to learn all the basics that they need to know in flight training,” Traeger explained. “This is just less than ideal conditions, obviously.”

The airport as a whole has seen much less activity than normal. Airport manager Larry Graves says typically at least 30 flights come into or out of the airport. Lately, that number has been cut in half.

“It’s been very low, typically we’re down around 10 or 15 operations a day in this poor visibility,” Graves said. “Really the only aircraft flying in and out of here are our business related aircraft.”

More than 100 aircraft are based out of the Grants Pass Airport and graves says at Tuesday night’s meeting, fire and visibility concerns will be discussed. As for Pacific Aviation and their students, it’s now just a matter of time.

“Just wait, it’s all we can do right now,” Traeger added.

Despite the limited visibility, local charter flight companies are saying they’re not feeling much of a hit to business.