The video of a solar eclipse recorded from Alaska Airlines Flight 870 has over 2,300,000 views on YouTube alone. The video has an “otherworldly view” of the moon’s shadow and the narrator is practically giddy with excitement. Atlas Obscura writes about how it all came together.
The year was 2016, and a total solar eclipse took place on March 9, but it was only visible from a handful of the islands of Southeast Asia.
Mike Kentrianakis is a longtime eclipse chaser, and he is the one you hear yelling “Prominences!” in the recording. A colleague told him about a commercial flight that might pass through the shadow of a solar eclipse while going from Anchorage to Honolulu.
“I’d never seen one from a plane before,” Kentrianakis said to Atlas. His friend Joe Rao, a meteorologist and umbraphile, figured out there was an Alaska Airlines flight that would come very close to the eclipse’s path of totality over the Pacific. However, they needed to convince the airline to change the departure time of the flight.
“We went through the gauntlet of questions, and suspicions,” said Kentrianaki to Atlas. “I think they thought we were a little bit crazy at first, and they really didn’t believe it.” But this wasn’t the first time Rao had tried to change a flight schedule in order to view an eclipse. In 1990, Trans Air America agreed to delay their flight by 41 minutes.
He was successful in 2016 as well, and Alaska Air eventually changed the departure time of the flight by 25 minutes — though the airline was worried that passengers damage their eyes by looking straight into the sun.
About a dozen people were on the flight to see the eclipse. Kentrianakis had dinner with one of the pilots — who was also super excited. Alaska Airlines Flight 870 flew out over the Pacific Ocean and right into the shadow of the eclipse. You can hear Kentrianakis describe everything he saw very, very excitedly.
“I went berserk because it was just an unbelievable eclipse,” he said to Atlas. “I’d never seen anything like that. The contrast, the perfection, the symmetry. The clarity of the shadow, the circular form. It really magnified it to see it in a wide-angle view. The shadow was coming straight at us. It was enormous! It looks like doomsday, but yet, there’s no fear.”
He sent the video to some people after the flight but never expected it to go viral. Since it was so successful, Alaska Airlines is offering a special flight for the August 2017 eclipse path. Kentrianakis won’t be on this one, because he plans on viewing the 2017 eclipse from Carbondale, Illinois.