Airways Magazine

Viewing Eclipse 2017 From 37k Feet With Southwest Airlines

 Breaking News
  • Airbus A350-1000 Receives EASA, FAA Approval MIAMI — Airbus has announced as of today that they have received both EASA and FAA approval for commercial operations, paving the way for launch customer Qatar Airways to receive...
  • Wizz Air to Upgrade Tel Aviv-London Flights MIAMI — The Hungarian low-cost carrier, Wizz Air, recently announced that its Tel Aviv – London route—currently served with four flights a week—will upgrade to a daily flight. These flights...

Viewing Eclipse 2017 From 37k Feet With Southwest Airlines

Viewing Eclipse 2017 From 37k Feet With Southwest Airlines
August 21
16:59 2017

SEATTLE — For Eclipse 2017, Airways joined Southwest Airlines for its special #Eclipse2017 flight from Seattle to St. Louis.

Out of the thousands of daily Southwest Airlines flights, the airline determined the five best flights for viewing the eclipse. One common trend of these five flights is they all took off from Seattle, Portland, or Denver and traveled southeast.

Southwest Flight #1375 departing Seattle-Tacoma at 8:50 a.m. PDT for St. Louis
Southwest Flight #1368 departing Portland at 9:05 a.m. PDT for St. Louis
Southwest Flight #1969 
departing Denver at 9:50 a.m. MDT for Atlanta
Southwest Flight #1577 departing Denver at 10:20 a.m. MDT for St. Louis
Southwest Flight #301 departing Denver at 10:20 a.m. MDT for Nashville

Upon boarding the flight, most passengers were surprised to learn that they were on an eclipse flight. Each passenger was given special glasses to safely view the eclipse and was presented with a special drink menu for the flight.

Shortly after taking off from Seattle, flight 1375 made a sharp turn to the south to intercept the eclipse trajectory. Within forty minutes, Captain Michelle Tallon announced that the sky was beginning to darken. As our flight was heading due east, we requested to perform a series of zig-zags over Idaho for optimal viewing.

Onboard the flight were several representatives from Southwest Airlines. Along with their PR staff, a meteorologist from their Dallas headquarters joined in on the excitement. After addressing the crowd on the science of the flight, the sky began to suddenly darken.

Totality had finally reached us. The location was southeast Idaho directly above the Idaho National Laboratory, the spot of the first nuclear energy reactor. As soon as it was safe to view, passengers gathered on the right side of the aircraft to view the one in a lifetime spectacle.

 

Steve Krieski, a revenue passenger from Washington D.C., was pleasantly surprised that he would be able to view the eclipse from the air. “I had no idea this flight was dedicated to the viewing of the eclipse. I won the lottery by getting on this flight last minute.”

In a quote that plays with the fun found onboard, Southwest Airlines spokesperson Brad Hawkins said “We’re over the moon seeing the enjoyment our fans and customers are having online and in the air today. Our employees are using a celestial stage to showcase what they do every day — making people feel special.”

Throughout the flight, passengers were swapping seats, exchanging photos, and sharing their experience with friends and family 37,000 feet below them. Conversations and drinks flowed throughout the night and excitement was shared by all.

Yesterday, Airways joined NASA research pilots from the Armstrong Flight Research Center as they prepared to track the solar eclipse over Oregon. Using a specially modified Gulfstream III, NASA will provide a live stream online and on NASA TV as the eclipse first crosses the United States.

In order to provide crystal clear video of the eclipse, NASA installed two optical grade windows on the Gulfstream III they are using for this flight.

“In the case of this aircraft, we have gone out there and taken the normal passenger windows and replaced them with optical grade windows. Plus [we] put in a telemetry system so that we can go out there and provide real-time video,” said G-III Eclipse Mission Manager Randy Albertson.

Speaking to Airways, NASA Research Pilot Andy Barry said that as the eclipse reaches a high angle, he will fly his aircraft at an angle to allow for optimal viewing.

As the Gulfstream III NASA used to track the eclipse is primarily for passenger transport, Barry said all of the photography and research equipment has not been crash tested by the FAA. For this reason, for takeoff and landing, all equipment must be stowed. Shortly after takeoff, the crew onboard the aircraft rushed to setup all equipment before the eclipse arrived.

The flight, callsign NASA 808, took off from Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington before making its way south to Oregon. Onboard the special flight was NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen.

While discussing the flight, pilot Barry, who will soon begin training to fly the NASA 747SP SOFIA, displayed his preparation by naming the time of totality down to the very second.

Starhustling with SOFIA: A 747SP Star is Reborn

Two specially modified windows on the NASA Gulfstream III.

Visual of NASA’s flight path over Oregon.

NASA Research Pilots

Alaska Airlines Operates Great American Eclipse Flight

Elsewhere in the airline industry, Alaska Airlines operated a special eclipse flights. Unlike Southwest, Alaska made their eclipse flight closed to the public and reserved it exclusively for astronomers and other guests.

Last year, Alaska Airlines flew a similar charter flight from Anchorage to Hawaii to intercept an eclipse. At the request of the 181 astronomers and physics fans onboard, Alaska intentionally delayed the flight by 25 minutes in order to better catch the grand spectacle.  At the time, Alaska jokingly said that rather than moving the sun or earth or moon, they decided to move the plane.

Delta also had fun with the eclipse by posting a fun video of a Biscoff cookie forming an eclipse with a light.

Special thanks to Southwest Airlines for having Airways onboard today’s special flight. 

0

About Author

Benjamin Bearup

Benjamin Bearup

Aviation journalist and social media guru from Atlanta, Georgia. I travel for the people I meet and the connections I make. High school senior with a passion for aviation business management. ben@airwaysmag.com @TheAviationBeat

Related Articles

1 Comment

Only registered users can comment.

error: Content is protected !!