Solar Eclipse 2024: Delta Air Lines Readies 2 Special Flights

Flight crew of a Delta Air Lines flight tracking the 2024 solar eclipse.
Photo Credit: Delta Air Lines

Today, Delta is doing something it has never done before in its almost 100-year history: fly along the path of totality during a total solar eclipse.

This special eclipse mission has meant extra hours in the simulator and time spent considering the flight’s plan.

Two Delta flights bound for Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) Monday will offer optimal views of today’s total solar eclipse.

DL 1218 from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) and DL 1010 from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).

Today’s flights are the culmination of what has been a period of meticulous planning and collaboration for the US airline.

Delta Flights from Dallas and Austin TX

Delta is embarking on a unique mission, a first in its near-century-long history: flying alongside a total solar eclipse.

Two Delta flights, DL 1218 departing Austin and DL 1010 from Dallas, will offer passengers optimal views of the eclipse as they track towards Detroit.

Captains Phillip Marshall and Phil Daniels, at the helm of the A220 aircraft, couldn’t be more thrilled.

“It’s an honor to be chosen for this extraordinary event,” Daniels says. “Creating lasting memories for our customers and flying alongside my colleague makes it even more special.”

Safety remains paramount for Delta. “Any deviation from our routine protocols undergoes rigorous evaluation,” explains Captain Marshall. “We involve a diverse team of experts to ensure every angle is covered.”

Precision and Communication

Flight superintendent Chris Clisham plays a crucial role, coordinating meteorology, flight planning, and air traffic control. His team meticulously plans for these eclipse flights, keeping a close eye on Memphis airspace, a potential congestion point during the eclipse.

“Punctuality is always a priority, but this flight adds another layer of complexity,” Clisham explains. “Aligning with the eclipse’s path at the precise moment requires incredible precision.”

The key lies in an “S-turn” maneuver, practiced extensively in flight simulators. This ensures optimal viewing on both sides of the aircraft during the four-minute totality.

“Communication with Memphis air traffic control is vital,” says Clisham. “Our goal is to complete the maneuvers before exiting their airspace.”

A Dance of ‘Flawless Coordination’

This intricate dance requires flawless coordination between pilots, ground teams, and air traffic control. Both captains acknowledge the critical role Clisham and his team have played.

“Unforeseen situations can arise,” acknowledges Captain Marshall. “The teamwork and coordination from everyone involved are truly inspiring.”

Captains Daniels and Marshall, boasting nearly 90 years of combined experience, are also actively involved in Delta’s Flight Standards program, inspiring the next generation of aviators.

“I hope there are many children on board,” says Captain Daniels. “Witnessing science unfold firsthand might ignite a passion for aviation in them.”

With anticipation building, Delta and its passengers eagerly await this celestial spectacle. “Taking flight is always magical,” says Captain Marshall. “Sharing this extraordinary solar eclipse with everyone onboard will be truly unforgettable.”

A NASA map of The Great North American Eclipse
NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio – Beth Anthony, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Beyond the Spectacle: A Spark for the Future

This eclipse flight transcends a mere sightseeing experience. It serves to highlight Delta’s commitment to innovation and pushing the boundaries of commercial aviation.

The meticulous planning, intricate maneuvers, and seamless collaboration required for this mission showcase the airline’s dedication to passenger experience and safety.

For the lucky passengers on board, the eclipse will be a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. But the true impact may lie in its ability to inspire future generations.

Captains Daniels and Marshall’s involvement in Delta’s Flight Standards program highlights the importance of fostering a passion for aviation.

Witnessing the meticulous planning and execution of this mission could spark a lifelong fascination with science and flight in young minds onboard.

The Delta eclipse flight is not just a journey through the sky; it’s a potential stepping stone towards a future filled with curious minds exploring the wonders of our universe.

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
5 Min Read
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