I had the great fortune to be able to join Alaska Airlines on a special flight eclipse flight that left Portland International Airport Monday morning and headed west over the Pacific Ocean to catch a glimpse of the eclipse 15 minutes before it hit land.
Alaska’s charter Flight #9671 left Oregon’s Portland International Airport before 7:30 a.m. Pacific Time and headed west for two hours out over the Pacific Ocean with an invited guest list of astronomy enthusiasts, eclipse-chasers, a NASA astronaut, and social media contest winners.
Before entering the path of totality, Alaska Airlines pilots and invited on-board experts, including Evgenya Shkolnik, an astrophysics professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, meteorologist Joe Rao, and NASA Astronaut Michael Barratt explained to passengers technical details involved with both the eclipse and the flight and gave tips on what to look for as the plane entered the path of totality. They also gave passengers a count-down into and out of the path of totality.
Yelps of “There it is!” “Wow! “Oh my goodness!” and “Thank-goodness this worked!” filled the cabin as the flight hit the coordinates that astronomers and pilots had so carefully plotted out beforehand. And, during the 1 minute 43 seconds of the total eclipse, many passengers seated on both the left and right side of the plane swapped seats multiple time so that everyone had a chance to see the astronomical occurrence billed as a “once in a lifetime event.”
My full story about the eclipse day adventure is on USA TODAY, but here’s a fun short video of the Great American eclipse flight put together by Alaska Airlines.