In case you didn’t know, on August 21st the shadow of the moon will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, in what’s been called the “Great American Eclipse”, the first total eclipse to cross the continental USA in almost 100 years (the last eclipse of this kind occurred in 1918).
And Alaska Airlines is planning an eclipse viewing party to commemorate the occasion. Of course, this viewing party can only be above the clouds!
A couple of days ago, Alaska Airlines announced they are scheduling a special charter flight for select astronomy enthusiasts and eclipse chasers “to experience totality from 35,000+ feet above the earth” (you can access the press release here).
They’ve done it before. During the March 8, 2016 Pacific Ocean eclipse, Alaska adjusted the flight plan of AS870 (ANC-HNL) to intercept the eclipse, to the delight of the passengers (many of them astronomers or astronomy-aficionados).
This time is an invitation-only charter flight, not a commercial flight as in 2016. One (very) lucky Alaska Airlines fan and a guest will be invited to join this flight. Although it’s not clear yet how the lucky winner will be selected, all we know is that a social media based contest will start on July 21. From their press release:
The flight will depart Portland at 7:30 a.m. PDT and fly off the coast of Oregon, allowing guests on board to be among the first of millions to witness this phenomenon. The invitation-only flight is not commercially bookable, but Alaska Airlines is giving one lucky fan and a guest a chance to win a seat on the flight. The contest begins July 21 on Alaska Airlines’ social media channels.
Weather is the largest variable when it comes to eclipse-viewing, and the Pacific Northwest is more prone to inclement weather and overcast skies than other parts of the country. However, Alaska Airlines is making sure eclipse chasers on the West Coast have prime viewing conditions, above much of any potential weather or cloud cover.
“As an airline, we are in a unique position to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for astronomy enthusiasts,” said Sangita Woerner, Alaska’s vice president of marketing “Flying high above the Pacific Ocean will not only provide one of the first views, but also one of the best.”
As an astronomy and a plane geek myself, I can’t think of a better setting to experience an eclipse than above the clouds. I will update this info as soon as we know what the contest consists of. In the meantime, I’m all set for viewing the eclipse in Columbia MO. You always have to have a Plan B!