Passengers get a glimpse of totality on Delta’s eclipse flight

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somewhere over arkansas , As skywatchers gathered across North America on Monday to view a total solar eclipse, a Delta Airlines plane filled with passengers was hoping to see a unique view from above the clouds.

But despite the efforts of pilots en route from Dallas to Detroit, a glimpse of totality proved elusive for many who reserved a spot on a flight that promised special maneuvers to give everyone a glimpse .

As the plane took several turns, a crowd of passengers gathered near the windows. However, the angle of the sun in the sky during most of the flight meant that it was difficult to see much without craning one’s neck. “did u see it?” Questions bounced around the plane.

Kyle Carter, 40, a stay-at-home father and private pilot from Orlando, said he didn’t see much of the actual eclipse during the flight, but he was happy with what he experienced.

“What I wanted to see more than the actual eclipse was the shadow running toward us from behind,” he said. “I noticed that. You could see the darkness coming towards us.”

Attorney Scott Keyes and his 8-year-old daughter Gabrielle flew in from Atlanta. He said he “got a piece” of the eclipse.

“Even if we didn’t quite get it, it was a fun community experience,” he said. He explained that clouds are a problem for many people on the ground, so he’s not sure he would have seen more if he had gone somewhere else. “I’m glad we got to see what we did.”

Before the people on the plane took off for a few minutes, the lights dimmed and the sky outside became darker. The flight attendant and pilot alerted each other. Seat-back screens showed views of Mexico, then Texas and other locations on the path of totality through Indianapolis.

Passengers received a bag of goodies that included “Solar Eclipse” sun chips, a moon pie, eclipse glasses, and Delta-branded socks and a hat that read “Soaring to the Universe.”

Captain Alex Howell said in an interview after the flight landed that he did not look at the sun during the flight, but saw the sky turning into a “dark version of evening”.

“The city lights went out because of the darkness,” he said.

In the lead up to the eclipse, many airlines promoted their best-chance flights to the prime viewing spot, including more than two dozen flights across the country on Delta, United, Southwest, Alaska and other operators. They were careful to include caveats and not make any promises.

“Although Delta flight plans are designed to maximize time within the path of totality, this is subject to change due to factors outside of Delta’s control such as weather and air traffic control that may impact timing and aircraft, ” the airline warned.

Delta operated two dedicated eclipse flights from Texas on Monday, including one from Austin. On a flight from Austin to Detroit, a couple wearing eclipse shirts got engaged after totality passed.

“Everyone was clapping and yelling and very happy for him,” said Delta spokeswoman Kathryn Morrow, who was on the flight. The captain piped up from the flight deck to ask for the results.

In Dallas, the scene at the airport was festive Monday morning. Passengers walked under celestial-themed balloons to board the plane, were given glasses by airline representatives and a Yorkie named Delilah posed for photos with her humans.

“This is her first eclipse, how could she miss it?” said Alan Goldberg, a 70-year-old lawyer who lives in New York City and Florida. Monday was the second birthday of a dog named Delilah.

Thomas Iwinski, a 34-year-old meteorologist from Detroit, flew home to Dallas on Monday morning for a flight that will take travelers in the path of totality. He described the mood at the gate as “excited, joyful, excited.” They rented a house in Tennessee for the 2017 eclipse but didn’t want to take a risk on the clouds this time.

“It’s definitely going to be something I’ve never experienced before,” he said.

The airline had been planning the flights for months.

In October, an operations planning employee mentioned the upcoming eclipse. That led to some brainstorming and brainstorming, Chris Clisham, a flight superintendent for the airline, said in a phone interview.

“And dot dot dot, we’re here,” he said.

The logistics sounds like a SAT word problem: If the plane is traveling at 400 mph and the moon’s shadow is moving at 1,600 mph, where will they overlap? And for how long? Throw in the angle of the sun while you’re at it.

“Luckily, even though I majored in math, I didn’t have to bring any trigonometry into the equation,” Clisham said. Flight-planning software did the heavy lifting.

The airline first announced the Austin-to-Detroit flight in mid-February, describing it as “specifically for umbraphiles to be able to spend as much time as possible within the path of totality.” That flight sold out within a day, so Delta quickly added another flight, this time from Dallas.

D.C.-based travel industry analyst Jamie LaRounis of had no specific plans to view the eclipse. He was eager to take Delta’s first flight, but the flight sold out before he could get a seat. Then he saw a news release about the Dallas flight.

“Within 30 seconds, I had booked it,” he said. “I dropped everything.”

Before the flight, he said, he redeemed 107,500 airline miles to book a first-class seat on the left side of the plane, the equivalent of about $1,149. Anyone who heard about the plan assumed he was intensely interested in eclipses, but he said he was more fond of aviation.

“They all think I’m some kind of meteorologist, I’m some kind of physics expert,” said LaRounis, 34.

Melanie Elliott, 36, of Chapel Hill, N.C., was disappointed to miss her flight to Austin, so she passed up the opportunity to fly to Dallas. An astronomy fan who earned a degree in physics, she wore astronaut earrings, a solar system necklace and a star and moon ring. After the flight, she said that the view of totality – as she was “lying on the right side of the seat” to try to see – was “a little disappointing.” She said she would watch her next eclipse from the ground.

But there was a huge benefit for them: Astronaut Scott Kelly spoke at a post-flight party in Detroit and posed for photos with the passengers.

“Scott Kelly touched up my moon tattoo,” Elliott said. “it’s worth it.”

During the last eclipse visible from North America in 2017, photographer John Carmichael tried to win a spot on a special Alaska Airlines flight so he could photograph the eclipse from the sky. He lost, but paid attention to the flight schedule and headed to Portland, Ore. Compared them with the eclipse path to find the southwest flight from to St. Louis.

With the help of the pilots – one of whom even cleaned the window outside Carmichael’s seat before takeoff – he took approximately 1,200 photographs, which created an iconic photo mosaic documenting the eclipse.

Carmichael, who has also photographed the eclipse from the ground, said being in the air has its advantages and disadvantages. The experience on the ground is more intense; Temperature changes, wildlife reactions occur and the view is not obstructed by certain parts of the aircraft.

But the chances of clouds appearing in the sky are very less. And, he said, it is possible to see the moon’s shadow moving across Earth – a view not available to eclipse watchers for most of human history.

“We have been flying as the only human race for a little over 100 years; It’s just a blink of an eye,” he said. “It really gives you a sense of the scale of the universe that we’re part of this huge incredible astronomical system where you can actually see the moon’s shadow moving across the Earth.”

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