The weather and the clouds can make or break the viewing experience during "The Great American Eclipse" that will happen on Aug. 21, but a group of astronomy enthusiasts would be lucky enough to not worry about a less than ideal weather and overcast skies on that day.
Watching The Great American Eclipse On Board An Alaska Airlines Plane
As the moon covers the face of the sun and leaves only the corona glowing in the sky, the lucky passengers of a charter Alaska Airlines flight will be watching 35,000 feet (10,700 meters) above without having to worry about the crowd and other nuisances.
The plane will take off from the Portland International Airport in Oregon at 7:30 a.m. local time on eclipse day and head out over the Pacific coast to give its passengers an early view of the rare event.
The solar eclipse, the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in the country's history since 1918, will be viewable first from above the Pacific Ocean. It will then become visible in Oregon as it follows a diagonal path across the United States to South Carolina.
"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," the airlines said in a statement.
Not A Commercially-Bookable Flight
Alaska Airlines is not selling the tickets for the flight. Seats are available by invitation to select astronomers and guests. The airlines, however, decided to give away two seats in a contest that will start July 21 on the Airlines' social media channels.
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Halley Knigge said that they do not yet know how many people will board the special flight. The plane can cater 181 guests but the company wants to limit the number of available seats to provide optimal viewing experience for people on board. Knigge said that there will likely be fewer than 100 people, both passengers and crews, on the flight.
Alaska Airline's vice president of marketing Sangita Woerner acknowledged that the company is in a position that can give unique experience for astronomy buffs as this particular flight will give the passengers first and best views of the eclipse.
Watching Eclipse Above Clouds
It is not the first time that the Alaska Airlines provided its passengers the best viewing experience during an eclipse. Last year, an Alaska Airlines plane adjusted its flight path at the request of eclipse-chasers so they can have optimal views of a total solar eclipse over the Pacific Ocean.
"It's an unbelievably accommodating gesture," said Mike Kentrianakis, from the American Astronomical Society, who was onboard Alaska Airlines Flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu, with other astronomers. "Not only is Alaska Airlines getting people from Point A to Point B, but they're willing to give them an exciting flight experience."