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Pilots Plan for Solar Eclipse

August 10, 2017 - For the first time in more than 38 years, a total solar eclipse will be visible from the lower 48 United States on August 21, 2017. While the eclipse of 1979 could be seen from a handful of states in the Pacific Northwest, this year’s event will be visible from key areas coast to coast, the first time that’s happened since 1918. Not surprisingly, people around the country are making plans to view this rare astronomical event — NASA is planning to launch two vintage WB-57s to watch from 50,000 feet — including a number of informal gatherings at airports within the relatively narrow path of totality.

Pat Hartness, EAA Lifetime 27545, has announced a special fly-in at the legendary Triple Tree Aerodrome in Woodruff, South Carolina. The field will be open for fly-in camping starting at 9 a.m. on Sunday, August 20. Visitors will provide their own food and drink, but there will be a special BBQ dinner on Monday evening after the eclipse. The dinner costs $25 for adults and $10 for kids less than 12 years old. Normal fees for camping will be waived for this event, in lieu of a requested donation to support the Aerodrome’s educational outreach programs. Triple Tree Aerodrome is a nonprofit organization, so donations may be tax deductible.

EAA Chapter 34 in Arlington, Texas, recently shared a newsletter story by Mike Blasdel, EAA 73223, about flying to witness the eclipse. In that story, Blasdel noted that hotels in most cities in prime viewing areas have long since sold out of rooms, but notes that pilots have more flexible travel options. He also pointed out that pilots shouldn’t worry too much about getting too close to the center of eclipse’s path.

“This is not necessary,” he wrote. “True, the center gives you a little more time of total darkness (the maximum duration in the center is about 2:40 minutes), but anything over a minute is just as phenomenal. And you only need to be in about 10 miles from the edge to get a greater than 1 minute totality. You might miss a lot of traffic by not heading for the center of totality.”

In addition to their plans for aerial observation, NASA has published a guide for safe viewing of the eclipse, including a list of approved vendors of “eclipse glasses,” as there are a lot of potentially dangerous bogus products out there. They’ve also put together an interactive map of airports in the path of totality, and made instructions available online for those who want to build a pinhole camera as an alternative way to view the eclipse.

If you fly out to view the eclipse, or host an event at your home airport, share your photos with us on our Facebook page or by e-mail at editorial@eaa.org

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