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A Totality Different Experience — Flying During the Solar Eclipse 2024





On April 8, 2024, many parts of America will experience a total solar eclipse—it’s being called the Great North American Eclipse. 

While solar eclipses aren’t rare, it is rare to have front-row seats for one. The next total solar eclipse won’t come to the US for another 20 years, and the 2044 eclipse will only pass over the rural northern states of Montana and the Dakotas. 

You can check the precise times and locations of the eclipse on the NASA Science Eclipse website. For the Dallas area, the eclipse will begin at 12:23 p.m. 

Totality, the period when the Moon completely covers the Sun, will last from 1:40 p.m. to 1:44 p.m. The path of totality begins over Mexico’s Pacific coast, traveling northeast across San Antonio and Dallas, then over Little Rock, Indianapolis, and Cleveland.

It finally passes over northern Maine at about 4:00 p.m. Other parts of the country will experience only a partial eclipse, with less coverage the farther away you are from the path of totality. 

Flying in an eclipse

Flights During the Eclipse

Like a mosh pit at a good rock show, everyone piles into the path of totality for the best views. Astronomers have noted that 99.9 percent isn’t good enough when it comes to solar eclipses. 

The absolute best “wow” moments come within the path of totality, where the Moon’s disk covers 100 percent of the Sun. Cities and attractions in the path will host special events, like the viewing party at The Alamo. 

National parks and other big outdoor spaces are hotspots. But all areas inside the path will become crowded as folks pile in;  it’s definitely not a good day to travel on the freeway. 

Commercial Flights During the Eclipse

Airlines are catching the eclipse mania, too. Delta announced Flight 1218, a special eclipse-viewing flight in an A220. The aircraft was picked for its extra-large windows to give passengers the best view. 

The route will keep the aircraft in the path, departing Austin, TX, at 12:15 p.m. and traveling to Detroit, keeping the aircraft more or less in the path of totality.

Delta isn’t the only airline selling solar eclipse flights, either. Southwest has a couple of flights on the books that chase the eclipse. 

Private jets are being chartered to follow the path of totality for upwards of six hours—far longer than anyone would experience it on the ground. 

What’s the advantage of seeing an eclipse from the air? You don’t have to be a pilot to realize you’ll get an entirely new perspective. Will you come back crying and filled with sadness, like William Shatner after his trip into space? Probably not, but you’ll be above the clouds, which could affect the view from the surface. 

And, on flights that are high enough, it’s possible you might get a view of the Moon’s shadow traveling over the surface of the Earth. 

flying during an eclipse

Flying your Own Plan During the Eclipse

What about going up in your favorite Archer or Skyhawk? There are no special rules for flying during the eclipse. 

But with so many distracted pilots taking to the skies, caution is advised! 

The FAA has issued a domestic notice describing possible delays and airborne holding for IFR operations and recommends that all pilots be ready for congestion headed into and out of the eclipse area. 

For VFR pilots, they advise that practice approaches, touch and goes, and flight following services may be unavailable. Of particular note, parking may be limited at uncontrolled fields that lie directly within the path of totality. As always, you’ll want to triple-check the NOTAMs and TFRs on the day of the flight.

Eclipse Safety

It’s mandatory that all articles about the eclipse contain this disclaimer: The sun really is very bright. Looking at the sun during an eclipse will likely cause eye damage. Don’t look directly at the sun, including during solar eclipses. 

Instead, invest in a styling set of eclipse glasses. They’re made from cheap cardboard and are perfect for viewing eclipses.

If you didn’t order your spiffy eclipse glasses, consider making a pinhole projector. The pinhole project is a fun way to view partial eclipses, but to totally enjoy totality, you’ll really want the glasses!

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