It may be still be smoky out there, but the Abbotsford International Airshow has been getting ready to start — just in time for a clearing forecast.

The three-day festival kicks off Friday with a twilight show, but aircraft have been arriving and practising over the past couple of days — treating many across the South Coast to something more than just hazy skies.

The theme of this year's show is "True North Strong" with several aircraft specially painted for Canada's 150 celebrations, including the CF-18 Hornet and the CF Squadron lead Snowbird. 

Smoky challenges

The poor air quality across B.C. that's come with the devastating fires this season has meant everything from serious health risks to a hindrance for firefighters in the reduced visibility.

And it's meant challenges for the general aviation industry as well.

For many airports across the province, the visibility has been below the minimum weather criteria for visual flight rules — meaning you have to rely on instruments and a special rating to fly in controlled air spaces.

abbotsford airshow 2017

Canadian Forces Snowbirds ground crew head towards the demo team after a practice flight. (Mike Hillman/CBC)

That means grounded planes for most flight schools in the region, during the peak training season.

Abbotsford has been sitting just at the minimum requirements in recent days, meaning most performers are getting in but are practising modified routines to stay safe in the reduced visibility.

Forecast: looking up

Pilots and airshow organizers have been watching a shift in winds and a cooler air mass move in just in time for one of the best aviation events in the world. 

That may mean a few showers for Sunday, but for most people on the ground and in the sky — that is a very welcome forecast. 

abbotsford airshow 2017

It's been a busy week for the Abbotsford International Airport control tower, directing incoming flights and monitoring the haze. (Mike Hillman/CBC)