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IPFS News Link • Events: America

I Watched the Total Solar Eclipse While Flying in a Jet. Here's What It Was Like.


I'm 35,000 feet in the air, a cocktail in my right hand and the solar eclipse to my left.

According to Bill Gregory, our pilot and a former NASA astronaut, only one in every 10,000 people will see a total solar eclipse in their life. I'm not sure exactly how many will get to see it from this vantage point, but it's got to be far fewer than that.

I'm here thanks to JSX, which has taken 30 people up above the clouds in Dallas to chase the total solar eclipse as it passes over the United States. On board the public charter air carrier's Embraer 145, we all get a window seat to watch the action unfold, along with thematic drinks and space-inspired snacks like a freeze-dried vanilla ice-cream sandwich. Besides the little detail that we're witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime event, the service and experience is much like that on any other JSX flight—which is to say attentive and luxe, respectively.

"It's going to be an ordinary JSX flight except for the fact that we're not going to go anywhere," Alex Wilcox, the company's CEO, tells us prior to the flight. "We're gonna see physics in a way that's so visceral . . . To have that moment where your mind opens up, expands, and you realize that there's much more to the world than just what's in your immediate face all day long."

As we head northeast toward Missouri and Kentucky, Gregory explains to me and my fellow sun-gazers that what we're about to see is the new moon positioning itself precisely between Earth and the sun. Texas was expected to get a whopping four minutes and 40 seconds of totality (the max possible is just seven and a half minutes), but the eclipse's path would continue through the U.S. all the way to Maine and Canada. During that total eclipse of the sun, the sky darkens and the temperature can drop a full 20 degrees.