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An Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter took a Delta eclipse flight. Here's what it was like

Mirtha Donastorg, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Science & Technology News

Delta runs a route from Dallas to Detroit regularly, but adjusted the flight path in order to maximize the time passengers would be in totality, a once-in-a-generation experience here in North America. The next time there will be a total solar eclipse over the continent is in 20 years.

Warren Weston, a lead meteorologist for the airline, said the plane would fly parallel to the eclipse and then cross paths. The plane traveled at more than 500 miles per hour, about a third of the speed of the eclipse. The shadows would chase the plane for an hour, then overtake it — that would be when we were in totality.

Once on the plane, every seat had a goody bag with a hat, socks and other apparel. There were also themed snacks — a Moon Pie and specially branded Sun Chips. The Airbus A321neo carried about 200 passengers.

As the wheels left the tarmac just after 1 p.m. Dallas time, the plane erupted into applause. People tracked the eclipse’s path on their seatback TVs as it caught up to us.

As it covered Dallas in total darkness, the sky around the plane, now over southeast Missouri, started to turn gray. About 45 minutes into the flight, attendants came on the speaker to announce we were 10 minutes from totality.

But unlike on the ground, the plane was never fully dark. As it fell more into shadow, people started asking, “Do you see it yet?”

 

And a truth began to dawn on us — maybe a plane isn’t the best viewing spot for an eclipse. With glasses or without, it was hard to see the phenomenon.

Some passengers got a better view than others, as evidenced by the photos that people began AirDropping throughout the cabin. Even if some didn’t get a good view, at least they had a photo from someone who did.

The plane was only in totality for about three minutes, the pilot announced afterwards. People craned their necks out the window, or for the middle and aisle seat occupants, around their fellow passengers. But on a plane, you are limited by small windows and angles that require some contortion to see the horizon.

From my vantage point from an aisle seat close to the right wing of the plane, the eclipse felt at times like a sunset, at other times like an unexpected storm that darkened the clouds, minus the turbulence.

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©2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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