Wildfires, Smoke ... And Aircraft Left On The Ground

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A new policy in Alaska that allows forest fires to burn unfettered unless structures are threatened has some aviation operators upset. "It's been a hot and dry summer here, great flying weather," R.D. Rosso, owner and chief pilot of Denali Air, told AVweb last week. "But I've lost more flying days to smoke this year than I ever lost to weather." Rosso said he's already been grounded about eight days out of the short summer flight-seeing season at Denali National Park, and that represents up to 100 passengers a day, at $240 apiece -- a substantial loss for a seasonal business. "If they can't fly today, it's not like they'll come back tomorrow," he said. "They're gone." About 100 separate fires are burning, and fewer than 10 percent are being fought by fire crews. Rosso said he's made multiple phone calls to the Bureau of Land Management to make sure they know the impact of their policies on small businesses like his. Alaska's flight-seeing companies are among the hardest hit by the smoke. Mike Moore, chief pilot of Northern Air Cargo, based in Anchorage, said the far-reaching smoke and haze has had minimal impact on his bottom line. "If a guy is waiting for his building supplies, and they don't get there today, they'll get there tomorrow," he told AVweb. "It's not that big a deal." The fires already have burned more than 5 million acres this year, the worst wildfire season ever recorded in the state.