The view from above: NASA, Alaska Airlines to fly special flight plans during total solar eclipse

Eclipse 2017
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By now, you have heard the words of caution urging you to always wear your eclipse glasses when looking at the sun during the eclipse.

But Carolyn Hale emailed us with a good question:

This may be a silly question about,the eclipse. What about the planes flying in the air. Will pilots be at risk with the windshields on the plane?

In an article written by the Air Line Pilots Association International, the ALPA states that anyone wishing to view the eclipse mid-air should only do so using the ISO 12312-2​ eclipse glasses; this includes flight attendants as well as passengers.

As for pilots, they would treat the eclipsed sun similar to the way they treat a normal sunny day: They would avoid looking straight into the sun and would likely fly a flight plan that prevents them from flying directly towards the sun.

A few NASA pilots are planning to fly during the eclipse in the effort of carrying out atmospheric and heliophysic research (heliophysic referring to the study of the sun).

And Alaska Airlines is operating a special flight to “chase” the Great American Eclipse (the moon’s shadow will move at 1500 mph, whereas aircraft carriers only max out at 600 mph; the eclipse experience is much longer in the air versus the ground, but they won’t be able to match pace with the moon).

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