ATLANTA, Georgia --- While most of us watched the eclipse from the ground, passengers lucky enough to be on the right flight at the right time got to see it from high above the earth.
As daylight started turning to darkness, word spread quickly on the concourses at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport that the place to be was at the floor to ceiling windows, looking skyward.
As passengers lined the windows for a view of the total eclipse, taking pictures with their cellphones, the real birds-eye view was almost 7 miles up on a Southwest flight coming in from Denver.
The Flight, Southwest 1969 (coincidentally, the same year we landed on the moon) took on a festive spirit from the start. Flight attendants in costume; everyone with special viewing glasses, and to top it off, free Cosmic Cocktails with appropriate names like Red Sky, Stargazer and Sun Flare.
Southwest Captain Bill Phipps made sure all 175 passengers on the flight got a cloudless high altitude look at the phenomenon millions of miles away in space. He stayed within the eclipse track for almost an hour and a half on the cross-country flight.
“The eclipse started in Oklahoma with just a partial coverage and then as we tracked to the East it got more and more. When we were probably 70 miles outside of Atlanta it went to full coverage, and we were able to make a few more turns so everyone could see it out the side windows. We banked the airplane so they were looking up,” he said.
Reaction from passengers was instantaneous...
“It was the most fun I’ve ever had,” said one.
While another said: “It was fantastic. We booked this flight specifically because we wanted to see the eclipse from 37,000 feet. It was everything we wanted and it was really wonderful.”
Another passenger added: “It was one of the best flights I’ve ever had in my life, incredible. Oh Gee, what a slight. With the glasses on, you see it and you just go wow!”
And from the first row on the Southwest flight to the last, “WOW” was the operative word.