Heavy fog circling Spokane International Airport on Monday led to flight cancellations, delays and a number of passengers re-routed to Seattle.
Scheduled arrivals on multiple airlines from San Francisco, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Denver were diverted to Seattle, according to flight trackers on the Spokane International Airport website.
Airport spokesman Todd Woodard said a total of 11 flights were diverted,
Two Alaska Airlines flights took off from Seattle bound for Spokane, but had to return because they couldn’t land, said Ray Lane, a spokesman for the airline, in an email. Another Horizon flight was canceled before departure.
“The fog is moving through the valley in waves. Visibility has been OK at times today for some aircraft to land; other times, planes need to return to (Seattle) because the conditions are too poor,” Lane said.
Several airlines had scheduled the rerouted flights to leave Seattle for Spokane late Monday afternoon. Lane said Alaska has space on scheduled flights to accommodate rerouted passengers, but trips to Spokane would depend on visibility.
A handful of scheduled flights left Spokane on time Monday, but most morning and afternoon flights were pushed back one or more hours, according to the airport tracker.
The airport is equipped with an instrument landing system that can help guide planes in, but the visibility at the airport is lower than the guidelines for that system, Woodard said.
He called the weather “an inordinately deep, dense fog.”
The airport’s runway visual range, which approximates how far pilots can see down the runway, was 500 feet on both runways as of Monday around 3 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
That’s by far the lowest visibility of the 69 U.S. airports that the FAA provides real-time data for on its website. Anchorage, the next lowest, has a 1,400-foot runway visibility range.
Landing planes at Felts Field isn’t an option because the runway is too short, Woodard said. The Coeur d’Alene airport is not equipped for commercial air travel, Woodard said.
Woodard said the fog was expected to improve by Monday evening and should not be an issue Tuesday.