With about 1,000 separate fires burning in Northern California, dozens of airports and hundreds of miles of airspace have been affected.
Pilots who don’t need to traverse the affected areas are urged to avoid them, leaving airspace, air traffic controllers, and radio frequencies available for fire-related operations.
U.S. Forest Service officials report that extremely smoky conditions have kept many aircraft on the ground, but large numbers of aircraft have been assembled at airports near the fires, ready to fly as soon as conditions permit. Unmanned aircraft, including NASA’s Ikhana and the Northrup Grumman Global Hawk operated by the Air Force, are among the aircraft being used to track and take images of the fires. These unmanned aircraft are launched and recovered within existing restricted areas and operate above Flight Level 180, so they do not affect most general aviation operations.
Meanwhile, temporary towers have been installed at some airports, including McClellan Airfield in Sacramento and Siskiyou County in Montague, to help manage firefighting activities.
Pilots who must fly anywhere in the Northern California area are urged to check notams frequently, as temporary flight restrictions are continuously being activated and changed as conditions dictate. More than 140 fires are burning in Mendocino County alone, and at one point aviation officials considered putting a TFR over the entire county—the state’s largest and home to about 15 airports. Officials ultimately decided to use multiple smaller TFRs, but their status and location can change at any time.
To get the most up-to-date notam information, visit the U.S. Notam Office’s Web site. For more information about the fires, including statistics and links to information about specific fires, visit the National Interagency Fire Center.