Amazing: Delta Air Lines Flies Special Charter To See Solar Eclipse

On Thursday, June 10th, Delta Air Lines flew a special Airbus A319 charter. The aircraft provided eclipse-lovers an opportunity to view the spectacular event in the early morning hours before the airline typically starts its scheduled flights out of its Minneapolis/St. Paul hub. After the viewing the breathtaking experience, the plane returned to Minneapolis.

Delta Airbus A319
Delta Air Lines flew a special Airbus A319 charter to see the solar eclipse. Photo: Getty Images

Delta Air Lines flies special Airbus A319 charter

Thursday morning, Delta Air Lines flew a chartered Airbus A319 over Canada with a light load. Organized by magazine Sky & Telescope, a few dozen lucky eclipse-lovers got to view the annular eclipse after sunrise over southern Canada.

The aircraft left Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP) at 3:15 am local time. The aircraft made its way north, over Minnesota and crossing the Canadian border. Astronomer Glenn Schneider calculated the route. Mr. Schneider has years of experience chasing solar eclipses since the early 1970s. He has been in the path of totality 33 times.

According to data from RadarBox.com, the aircraft spent three hours and 22 minutes in the air. The A319, registered as N351NB, completed the flight and re-entered commercial service with Delta later that evening.

A319
The Airbus A319’s flight path over Canada. Photo: RadarBox.com

Just after sunrise, Delta Line Check Pilot Art Smith slightly tilted the starboard wing of the aircraft. Tilting the wing downwards allowed passengers seated on the aircraft’s right side an opportunity to witness the annular eclipse in its entirety. No passengers were located on the left side. Passengers got to see the annular eclipse’s trademark “ring of fire.”

Eclipse
An annular eclipse happens when the moon moves between the sun and earth. The moon blocks out much of the sun, leaving just the sun’s outer ring outside of the moon’s shadow. Photo: Bob King, Sky & Telescope via Delta Air Lines

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Preparing for the flight

For a flight that was just over three hours, viewing of the solar eclipse lasted just over four minutes.

However, the preparation for the flight took plenty of time and training. The pilot, Art Smith, stated the following on training for the flight:

“In order to keep the winglet below the horizon and maintain the desired track, it was determined we needed to fly the aircraft with the autopilot off – thus making it a little more challenging. We ran the profile in the simulator to ensure we had enough rudder authority at 39,000 feet. Once in flight, it worked just as we found in the simulator. It was truly awesome, almost spiritual, to view the eclipse at its full annularity. It really was a ‘ring of fire’ and one of the most incredible sights I’ve been fortunate to see.”

Delta A319
The flight took plenty of planning. Photo: Bob King, Sky & Telescope via Delta Air Lines

Delta’s various teams had to coordinate for the special flight. MSP-based employees from Airport Customer Services (ACS), TechOps, In-Flight, and more worked to ensure the smooth operations of the flight.

Jeff Hart, General Manager, ACS at MSP, stated the following:

“I was fortunate to be a part of this awesome experience. Due to the complexities of this flight, the MSP team has been engaged in its planning for roughly a month to ensure all went well. The feedback from everyone onboard was over the top. Every customer I spoke with raved about the experience of the eclipse itself as well as how flawlessly it was executed by the Delta team.”

Scenic charters

Scenic charter flights like these are not uncommon in the airline industry. The Qantas Supermoon flight at the end of May is one such example.  The Australian carrier has also flown a charter to see the awe-inspiring Southern Lights.

Delta A319
Delta is not the only airline that has run a special scenic flight to nowhere. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Airlines have been running scenic flights to nowhere since the start of the crisis. In regions with heavy travel restrictions, airlines like Qantas, Starlux, Fiji Airways, and ANA have jumped onto the flight to nowhere trend and sought to offer passengers the opportunity to take to the skies.

What do you make of special flights like this? Should they be done more often? Let us know in the comments!

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