What the solar eclipse looked like from 38,000 feet in the air

The solar eclipse from 38,000 feet in the air. (KXAN Photo/Kate Winkle)
The solar eclipse from 38,000 feet in the air. (KXAN Photo/Kate Winkle)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KXAN) — KXAN’s Digital Content Producer Kate Winkle won the trip of a lifetime to view the 2017 solar eclipse from the air via Alaska Airlines! Here’s her account of how it all played out from 38,000 feet in the air.


My alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. and I jumped up almost immediately, miraculously wide awake. It was eclipse day, and my boyfriend and I had to get to the airport. We won a trip to see the eclipse from the air, and became two of dozens of media, scientists, airline staff and others on a charter flight toward the Pacific Ocean.

After standing in an impressively long line for 4 a.m. at Portland International Airport, we rounded the corner to our gate where the area was festooned with Alaska Airlines-themed decorations, complete with a wall of decorated Voodoo Doughnuts (a Portland classic) in the company’s colors.

After a news conference and some waiting, we all piled onto the plane. During the two hours until we were to cross paths with the shielded sun, we heard from some of the scientists and eclipse enthusiasts (known as umbraphiles, after the shadow made as the moon crosses the sun).

Then, we were 15 minutes out. I set up my camera to take some pictures of the moon partially covering the sun, and my boyfriend and I took turns fiddling with the camera and peeking at the shrinking, Cheshire-cat grin of the sun through our eclipse glasses.

Kate Winkle and her boyfriend getting ready for the solar eclipse with their snazzy eyewear. (KXAN Photo/Kate Winkle)
Kate Winkle and her boyfriend getting ready for the solar eclipse with their snazzy eyewear. (KXAN Photo/Kate Winkle)

As the countdown began, we rushed to the other side of the plane to catch the shadow fall over the earth.

Then, it was chaos.

I don’t know how the 1 minute 40 seconds of darkness managed to feel like only 10 seconds. As I looked at the sun with my uncovered eyes, I barely had enough time to drink in the shapes the light made in its ring and the surreal darkness in the middle of the morning. All too soon, the sun peeked out from behind the moon.

I absolutely couldn’t believe we had the chance to witness this amazing experience. I found myself shaking with adrenaline and wonder long after the sky brightened, the plane turned and we began our trip back to Portland.

Now I have my eyes set on viewing the next eclipse to cross parts of the continental U.S. in 2024. I may have caught the eclipse-chasing bug. And while I know seeing an eclipse doesn’t have to be a once in a lifetime experience, I know this trip absolutely was.

KXAN.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s