The 2007 summer flying season could be described with one word "Smokey". It was the worst wildfire season I've seen in years. Even eclipsing the notorious 2000 season. By the time of our first trip in mid July, Central Idaho and Northwest Montana were covered in smoke and the FAA had issued Temporary Flight Restrictions covering most of our usual destinations (Schafer, Johnson Creek, Benchmark). This put a damper on our backcountry plans, but we made the best of a bad situation.
I made two trips this season. The first in mid-July with the usual suspects, Mark, Brad and Steve (and Steve's dad). We stayed at West Yellowstone where the smoke wasn't so bad, and made some local flights. We also took a trip up to Seeley Lake, MT to stay in the new pilots' campground that had just opened.
My second trip was a solo flight in mid August. I was hoping that the fire activity might have died down, but it had actually gotten worse. After camping out at West Yellowstone for a few days, I flew through the worst of the smoke to the Magee strip in Northern ID, where there were a lot less fires.
All in all, it was not the best year for backcountry flying, but I still enjoyed it.
John Galban's Flying Site
Wildfire Summer '07
Typical flight through smoky haze. Mark and Brad fly off my right wing. The mountains just a few miles away on the other side of the valley are
This Forest Service Douglas DC-3TP ( turboprop conversion) was a regular sight throughout the summer at West Yellowstone. The plane is used
to drop smokejumpers and their equipment on wildfires. For you non-aviation geeks, this plane was originally a Douglas DC-3 transport. The
first modern airliner which first flew in 1935. If you'd told Donald Douglas that they'd still be earning a living 72 years later, he'd have called you crazy.
This was one of the several wildfires burning near Missoula, MT. You can see what looks like a large white cloud deck on the horizon. That was
actually a solid layer of smoke that rose above 12,500 ft. and covered thousands of square miles. It took me an hour and a half to fly through it and
get into clear air to the north.