The total solar eclipse is imminent… and so is the traffic pandemonium. Looking to dodge I-5 gridlock and looming potential for overcast skies? One of you is in luck: you could be among the first to watch the eclipse make landfall, seated above the cloud line on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 charter flight.
The 50-person invitation-only flight, announced June 26, is reserved for astronomers and a few lucky VIUs—very important umbraphiles. But the airline is also giving away two seats for one lucky amateur astronomer; the tickets will be awarded via a TBD contest announced on July 21 through Alaska’s social media outlets.
According to Alaska Airlines, the idea for the August 21 flight came when eclipse chasers in 2016 asked for a scheduled flight from Alaska to Hawaii to be delayed a half-hour to better observe a March 8 total solar eclipse over the Pacific Ocean. (See video of this flight below).
2017's Great American Eclipse will span the nation from Depoe Bay, Oregon to South Carolina, offering plentiful opportunities for astronomical enthusiasts to witness the once-in-a-lifetime event. This ultra-exclusive viewing option ups that experience, shall we say, astronomically. The phenomenon-trailing flight leaves from the Portland International Airport at 7:30 a.m. and circles over the Pacific Ocean for a prime viewing opportunity 35,000 feet high.
As we’ve previously reported, Oregon hotels and campgrounds in and around the path of totality have been booked for months. By now, everyone and their mother has something planned for the event. The more formal options include a solar eclipse bike campout, along with 30-plus festivals that will celebrate the darkened sky from Gleneden Beach to Baker City—and with approaches ranging from the EDM-and-yoga-focused Oregon Eclipse Festival in Mitchell to the Oregon Solarfest in Madras (so many tribute bands, y’all).
Other Pacific Northwest institutions are also monopolizing on the influx of tourists; Oregon State University in Corvallis is offering up dorm rooms, while the state parks agency opened 1,000 additional “dry camping” spots—that is pitching your tent wherever is left, like fields and parking lots—in April. Of course, seemingly every Willamette Valley vineyard in or even near the path of totality is also selling tickets for wine-soaked viewing parties.