Airport officials cancel air show due to air quality |

Airport officials cancel air show due to air quality

by Dylan Silver
Stunt plane pilot Bill Cornick, 81, stands by his plane in a hangar at Lake Tahoe Airport. Cornick was scheduled to fly during the Lake in the Sky Airshow today, but the event was canceled due to poor air quality.
Dylan Silver / Tahoe Daily Tribune |

City officials canceled the annual Lake in the Sky Airshow Friday afternoon due to poor air quality.

“It’s a shame,” said announcer Jon “Huggy” Huggins. “They’ve put so many hours of work into this.”

Smoke obscured the view from one end of the runway to the other Friday. The conditions made flying unsafe as well as unhealthy to work in.

El Dorado County air pollution control officer Dave Johnston advised that the visibility has now been reduced to one mile visibility and that air quality conditions are at an “unhealthy” rating, according to a statement released by the city. Johnston’s recommendation was the primary reason the air show was canceled, chairman Zach Mosedale said.

“We ultimately felt that it would be irresponsible to have a bunch of people sitting around outside in the smoke,” Mosedale said.

Airport officials are still calculating the cost of losing the airs how, airport manager Sheryy Miller said. Because of cancellation fees and changes in facility costs like port-a-potty rentals, the figure was unavailable Friday, Miller said. City spokeswoman Tracy Franklin said the event was planned at “significant expense.” The air show does not generate significant revenue, Miller added.

Unable to fly due to lack of visibility, pilots moseyed around the airport Friday, cracking jokes and dreaming up ways to make the smoke disappear.

“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it up here,” said Spencer Suderman, one of the stunt plane pilots scheduled to take part in today’s air show.

Flying would have been possible, but the pilots could not perform the barrel rolls, loop-the-loops and stalls they’re famous for, Suderman said. Pilots need at least three miles of visibility to do acrobatic maneuvers, he added.

“The lowered visibility means we can’t do any air show flying,” Suderman said. “The problem right now in particular is the horizontal visibility.”

The restrictions on flying were not the main factor behind the decision, Mosedale said. Primarily, it was concern over the impact the smoky air would have on workers and attendees of the event.

“The reality is (the pilots) have minimum (visibility standards) and they’re not going to push it,” Mosedale said. “The minimums they have are not that restrictive. A little lifting of the smoke and they would have been able to go. It really came down to the air quality.”

Airport workers put in hundreds of hours planning the annual event. Dozens of planes of all different shapes and sizes were scheduled to land at the airport. Skydivers were going to fall out of the sky and smoke trails were going to decorate the horizon.

The cancellation was disappointing, but not the end of the world, Mosedale said.

“It’s like those Buddhist monks that make a huge beautiful sand structure and then just blow it away,” he said. “Life is like a river. It just keeps on going.”