If you're looking for a unique way to experience the Great American Eclipse, you should have booked a seat on Delta Flight #2466.
On Aug. 21, the Portland-Atlanta flight will progress in a flightpath that's nearly identical to the umbra of the moon's shadow traveling across the United States. A user on the social networking site Reddit shared the discovery after studying flight track data from FlightAware and comparing it with the eclipse path from NASA.
The flightpath of Delta Flight 2466 from Portland to Atlanta on Aug. 21 matches up with the path of the total solar eclipse. (Photo: BeardsofBeards)
"The eclipse will be SUPER fast," he wrote," however, being that people on the flight are traveling in the same direction, they should get a longer look than most of us plebeians."
For those on the ground within the center of the narrow 70-mile-wide path of totality, the sun will be completely blocked anywhere from 2 minutes to 2 minutes and 41 seconds. These differences account for the speeds at which the moon's shadow will be racing along the curved surface of the Earth. For instance, when it arrives on the coast of Oregon, it will be moving at 2,240 mph; later in Kentucky (where the axis of the moon's shadow passes nearest to the center of Earth) it will slow down to 1,462 mph.
For those on DL2466, the speed of the plane (575 mph) won't allow it to keep pace with the moon's shadow on the ground, but it should buy some extra moments of totality. And if you're wondering if anyone has ever used a faster jet to track an eclipse before, you're absolutely correct. Back in 1973, scientists loaded up a supersonic Concorde with equipment and, traveling at some 1,300 mph, managed to stay within the umbra of a total solar eclipse for a record 70 minutes. You can read a great writeup on the achievement here, as well as view a short French documentary below.
While we have no idea if Delta will shift the plane to allow passengers to glimpse the moon passing in front of the sun, the course correction wouldn't be unprecedented. On March 8, 2016, Alaska Airlines Flight 870 adjusted its flight path to give passengers an incredible view of a total solar eclipse from 35,000 feet. The beautiful view, and the tremendously excited reactions that followed, can be viewed in the video below.