Wildfires Leave Seattle Area Pilots Smoked Out

As wildfires burn east of Seattle, general aviation pilots in the Northwest feel the effects.

The final approach to runway 14R at King County International Airport/Boeing Field (KBFI) was down to 1 mile visibility due to smoke [Courtesy: Ed Bryce]

Last week, I wrote about how smoke was making it difficult to do VFR flights in the Seattle area. This morning, Seattle's Air Quality Index (AQI) is 195, labeled “unhealthy,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency. According to our local television news broadcasts, Seattle now has the worst air quality in the world.

Yet there were still some pilots who went up in this stuff because they had to.

Ed Bryce, who’s been a CFI [certified flight instructor] since 1977, was one of those pilots. Wednesday, he flew with an instrument candidate and posted a photo of the final approach to runway 14R at King County International Airport/Boeing Field (KBFI) on his Facebook page. 

Along with the photo, he noted that visibility was down to 1 mile.

"I’ve never seen smoke like this," he said. "Fog, yes, but even that is fairly rare."

Bryce recommends wearing an N95 mask if you must fly in this smoke, and don't be surprised if the smoke gets to you.

"My eyes were burning after the flight and the student said he felt like he’d smoked four cigars,” Bryce said.

The smoke is coming from wildfires burning east of Seattle and several fires burning in Oregon.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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