Dreamliner to ‘chase totality’ during Great South American Eclipse

EFLIGHT 2019-MAX will extend totality from two minutes to NINE minutes for 43 lucky eclipse-chasers

Have you ever seen a total solar eclipse from 37,000 ft.? If you’ve got a spare US$6,750, act quickly and you can get a ringside seat for the Great South American Eclipse.

On 02 July, 2019 a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner owned by LATAM Airlines with the name EFLIGHT 2019-MAX will take-off from Easter Island and head north to the Greatest Point of Eclipse Duration – four minutes 32 seconds – then double it.

It will do that by chasing the moon’s shadow as it flashes across the planet, so as well as seeing totality from 37,000 feet above the South Pacific Ocean, the 787 will extend totality to over nine minutes. All by travelling at an airspeed of 904 km/hr.

It might sound complicated, but the maths is actually really easy. The point of greatest eclipse is by definition the slowest the moon’s shadow gets along the path of totality. There, it will be travelling at ‘just’ 2,000 km per hour. Add the fact that its near the equator, where Earth is rotating faster at the surface, and a plane going almost half that speed can double its time in totality.

So is totality better from a plane compared to on the planet’s surface? “It’s not better or worse than seeing totality from the ground, they’re both very different experiences,” says the flight’s planner, Dr. Glenn Schneider at the Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona. “But it is an absolutely spectacular experience.”

“Depending on the width of the umbra, which varies tremendously from eclipse to eclipse, from 37,000 feet the horizon-to-horizon view across 400 km allows you to see the transit of the moon’s shadow as it is projected on the surface of the Earth,” says Schneider, a veteran of 35 total solar eclipses. “You get to see the entire oval like an inverse searchlight beam – a beam of darkness – approaching the aircraft, and from 11 km up you’re simultaneously looking down at the ground and up at the sky.”

“You can see the motion very clearly, and the delineation between the umbra and the penumbral portion of the shadow really quite clearly,” he adds. “There are great reasons for observing totality from the air because of sky clarity and transparency, but the view of the shadow and its motion across the Earth is an unbelievable thing to see. It really puts you in your place in the solar system.”

Seats on the EFLIGHT 2019-MAX cost from US$6,750 to US$9,750, and can be purchased here.

Bottom line: Do you want to experience a high precision, centerline intercept of the lunar umbra? If you do, it will cost you at least US$6,750 to grab a seat on the EFLIGHT 2019-MAX – but only if you act quickly.

Photo credit – Glenn Schneider and Geoff Simms