Glenn Schneider, Steward Observatory, The University of Arizona
Phone: 520-621-5865, email: gschneider@as.arizona.edu

An Unprecedented Opportunity to Join Our TSE 2010 Eclipse Charter Flight
Centrally Intercepting the Moon's Shadow from 2500 km East of  Tahiti, French Polynesia


A Flight into the Darkness of the Lunar Umbral Shadow

With an Astounding Duration of Totality of approx. 9-1/2 Minutes
From the Pristine, Clear, Skies appx. 12 km above the South Pacific Ocean

The total phase of the 11 July 2010 solar eclipse will be visible only from within the "path of totality" — the narrow arc-like strip on the map above — centered on the southern Pacific Ocean.
(Map source: NASA TP/2008-213171 by Espenak and Anderson)

Join us in Papeete on our historical sojourn into the Moon's umbral shadow high above the Pacific Ocean.

How?  ---> See Rick Brown's EFLIGHT 2010 French Polynesia Web Site <---

Location, Location, Location (it's all about the weather - and getting ABOVE it!)

Total solar eclipses (TSEs) are one of nature's most dramatic and awesome spectacles — but often occur in remote locations posing logistical (and financial) barriers to accessibility.  The most recent TSE, on 22 July 2009, was visible from highly populated areas in India and China, and provided the opportunity for those who ventured to the point of maximum eclipse in the Pacific Ocean  to view the longest land- or sea-based total solar eclipse for more than a century to come. But, many were then left wondering "what about the NEXT one?"  The path of totality for the 11 July 2010 solar eclipse soon to be upon us, traverses a vast, but narrow, stretch across the south Pacific Ocean (as shown on the map above) — with landfall opportunities few and far between on only a very small number of sparsely populated islands.  Just moments before sunset umbral landfall occurs in Patagonia, but eclipse visibility will be problematic in the limited locations there where the path can be accessed both because the local climate presents a very high likelihood of cloud cover and mountains to the west will block many lines-of-sight to the horizon-hugging setting Sun.

Unfortunately,  all along the path of totality, the chance of TSE 2010 being obscured by cloud is no better than about 50/50 even from the "best" locations anywhere on land or sea.

Comparison of historical July average cloud obscuration (weighted by sky coverage and frequency of occurrence) among ground-based, potentially accessible, observing locations. Climatology data adapted from Jay Anderson; see additional data for other longitudes and locations.
Comparison of July monthly mean cloud cover frequency (percentage of time) as a function of cloud obscuration, as compiled by Jay Anderson, for Hao Island and Easter Island.  Easter Island experiences heavy (median 75%) broken to fully overcast skies significantly more frequently than Hao Island. Conversely, and favorably for Hao, lighter, scattered cloud cover is more frequent on Hao Island than on Easter Island.

BUT: From a altitude of  39,000 ft. any eclipse-obscuring cloud that may be present will be well BELOW the aircraft and of no concern to us.

In addition... the geometrical and "astrodynamic" circumstances of the 11 July 2010 total solar eclipse, and upper atmospheric prevailing July winds in the western South Pacific,  give rise to the extraordinarily rare opportunity of "chasing" the Moon's shadow with a commercial jet aircraft giving rise to an astounding duration of totality of approximately nine and a half minutes (!) — historically unprecedented for any non-military or non experimental aircraft. 

THUS... For Those Who Can Never Get Enough Totality and
Who Wish Obviate Concerns of Ground-Level Weather:

EFLIGHT 2010 — Umbral immersion for an unprecedented appx 9-1/2 minutes! from 12 km above sea mean level

We are conducting an unprecedented eclipse viewing flight – EFLIGHT 2010 – departing from Faaa International Airport in Papeete on the morning of 11 July 2010, using the renowned Skytraders Airbus A319LR/ACJ jet aircraft, on an appx. 7-hour round trip flight into the path of totality appx. 2500 kilometers east of Tahiti

Our high-altitude aircraft will then take to the skies with up to 41 airborne eclipse chasers* providing an incredible view of TSE 2010 from ~ 12 km above the south Pacific Ocean. EFLIGHT 2010 will give rise rise to an incredibly long duration of totality within the Moon's umbral shadow of approximately nine minutes and a half (!) — unchallenged in the history of civil sub-sonic aviation and longer than nature will ever allow for any total solar eclipse anywhere on the surface of the Earth.

* We are able to accommodate up to 29 (twenty-nine) eclipse-viewing passengers each with their own window.  Alternatively, up to 9 (nine) of those windows MAY be shared by two people during totality.  I.e., we can accommodate up to eighteen people who, traveling as pairs, who would like to share a window with a second person sharing a window in pre-arrangement with a partner.

Look, Ma! – NO SEATS!

All seats on the left (sun-facing) side of our aircraft will be REMOVED from the airplane before the flight, giving full, unimpeded, access to the eclipse-viewing windows, plenty of floor space for observers, and easy viewing of totality with the Sun appx 46 degrees above the horizon.

Seating configuration (for take-off/landing and available during outbound cruise and inbound return) of our Skytraders Airbus A319LR/ACJ aircraft.
The sun-facing side of the cabin will be unencumbered by any seat rows, providing optimal and easy access to the eclipse-viewing windows totality.
CLICK HERE for details on the metrology and placement of the windows.

To achieve an extraordinary and unprecedented duration of appx 9-1/2 minutes of totality, the eclipse will be observed where the altitude of the Sun during totality will be approximately 46° above the astronomical horizon.  Viewing the eclipse at this relatively high solar altitude, "half way up" the sky, out the aircraft windows will present no problems on our Skytraders A319 LR/ACJ aircraft, as we have arranged to have all of the seats (shown above) on the left (sun facing) side of the aircraft removed – giving easy and unimpeded access to the floor below and all spaces around the windows.  In this configuration, window sharing is possible without any crowding for a subset of nine windows.  EFLIGHT 2010 can accommodate up to thirty-eight eclipse chasers: twenty with a window for themselves alone, while eighteen others may share one window in partner-pairs.

The Sky Above, The Earth Below – Totality from 39, 000 feet

Our high-altitude charter jet aircraft will provide a spectacular high-altitude vista to observe totality while optimally flying along with, and inside of,  the Moon's umbral shadow.

Coronal Structure: B. Kramer and G. Schneider
(EFLIGHT 2008)

Diamond Ring 11 km above the Earth: D. McGlaun and G. Schneider
(EFLIGHT 2008)

Outer Coronal Streamers :  G. Schneider
(EFLIGHT 2008)
Views of totality and the Moon's shadow on the Earth below and sky above from EFLIGHT 2008 flying at 36,000 feet (within the altitude plan envelope for EFLIGHT 2010).

EFLIGHT 2010 — Baseline Flight Plan

EFLIGHT 2010 will produce the longest duration of totality ever observed with a non-experimental or non-military aircraft in history (a supersonic experimental Concorde flight in 1973 achieved an astounding 74 minutes in totality — a record that will continue to stand for quite some time).  With most-likely winds aloft (55 knots from 270°) our anticipated 9m 33s of totality is nearly three minutes longer than the 6m 42s of totality seen on the Costa Classica from the point of maximum eclipse during the recent "big one" on 22 July 2009 (longest total solar eclipse from the ground for more than a century to come), and about a two minutes longer the theoretical maximum of 7m 32s that nature and celestial mechanics will ever allow for a ground-based observer.

Our baseline EFLIGHT 2010 flight scenario, discussed below, is schematically illustrated on the map above (click on map to see larger version).

EFLIGHT 2010 will provide a spectacular opportunity for viewing both the total phase of the eclipse itself, and the onrush and recession of the Moon's shadow from a vista with a reach of nearly 400 km to the horizon.  To provide optimal viewing of both the sweep of the umbral shadow over the Earth and of totality itself, our baseline flight plan is (conceptually) divided five segments as depicted on the map above: the outbound and inbound "cruise" segments of the flight to and from Papeete  (purple segments), viewing of the approach and recession of the Moon's shadow (green segments; SV = Shadow Viewing), and viewing of totality (in yellow, extended appx 2 minutes shown in red segments before and after second and third contacts, respectively; TR = Totality Run).  See below for more detail (numbering corresponds to blue map above).

(1) Our EFLIGHT 2010 participants board the aircraft for departure from F'aaa airport in Papeete at approximately 15:45 UT (5:45 AM local time) to later rendezvous with the moon's umbral shadow appx 2500 km east of Tahiti. 

(1-2) During the later part of the outbound cruise, first contact and the partial eclipse ingress phase can be viewed out the aircraft left side windows.

(2) After traveling eastward from Tahiti for approximately three hours, at appx. 15 minutes before second contact, the aircraft will execute a left hand turn a few minutes before the Moon's shadow begins to appear over the appx 388 km distant horizon (points SV1 for the umbra and aircraft positions as shown in the illustration below). 

(2-3) The projection of the "shadow ellipse" on ground will have its major (longer) axis pointed toward the Sun and it's minor (smaller) axis essentially toward the aircraft. As the aircraft flys toward centerline over the next appx 13 minutes, the approaching shadow in the sky above, and projected on the Ocean (or clouds) below, will be viewed directly out the main cabin left-side (eclipse viewing) windows.

(3) At approximately 3-1/2 minutes before second contact, the aircraft will execute a 90-degree right hand turn (SV2 – TR1) to put the Sun, at the completion of this appx 1.4 minute maneuver (see detailed chronology below), straight out the eclipse-viewing windows, and the approaching shadow edge (with its closest point about 55 km from the aircraft) will be seen "to the left" soon to envelope the aircraft from "behind".

(3-6) Our aircraft will then be on an optimum trajectory for viewing totality,

(3-4) and for approximately a minute and a half before "second contact", the last stages of the ingress phase of the partial eclipse leading up the start of totality will be viewed straight out the left side windows.

(4) At second contact (19:15:14 UT) the leading edge of the umbra will overtake the aircraft and a glorious diamond ring effect (see middle picture above from EFLIGHT 2008) will be prolonged by the aircraft's speed relative to the Moon's shadow.  

(4-5) The aircraft will fly through the Moon's umbral shadow for approximately 9-1/2 minutes, with the aircraft on centerline and located centrally in the Moon's shadow at 19:20 UT when it will be most deeply immersed in the lunar umbra giving spectacularly high contrast views of the solar corona from approximately 39,000 feet. 

(5) Third contact and TSE 2010 is over with a parting  diamond ring, and a total solar eclipse and observation flight for the record books with approximately 9-1/2 minutes of totality observed!

(5-6) The thin sliver of the returning solar crescent waxes and is viewed for the next appx. minute and a half.

(6) As the Moon's shadow heads eastwards, the aircraft will then execute another 90-degree right had turn (TR2 – SV3),

(6-7) to give us another spectacular  view for the next appx. 10 minutes as the receding shadow whisk its way toward southern South America before returning to space. 

(7) We then execute a final right hand turn (at SV4) to begin our approximately three hour westward return flight back to Papeete, to join those in Tahiti who had witnesses only a 99% partial eclipse (8).

Baseline flight scenario: FL 390, Mach 0.80 (TAS 459.2 nm/hr).  Statistical wind of 270°/55 kts assumed for Totality Run only.

Dist dist(nm)
Leg time
Alt° Az°
Est. Latest Wheels-Up Papeete
149° 36' 41" W
17° 32" 24"S

Est. Climb to FL 390 (TBD)

24m 00s

Start Outbound Cruise
146° 54' 45" W
17° 53' 31" S


2h 20m 11s

Est. 1st Contact
(140° 34' 40"W)
(18° 33' 04" S)


30m (TBD)

End Outbound Cruise
128° 08' 01" W
19° 15' 27" S

63.4° Constant Radius  Left Turn Center
TBD: 25° bank, 1.0 min, Rad: 6.4 nm

128° 04' 37" W

19° 09' 54" S



Start Ingress Shadow Viewing
19:00:00 127° 58' 46"
19° 13' 08" S


11m 50s

End Ingress Shadow Viewing 19:11:50
127° 14' 16" W
17° 52' 41" S

90° Constant Radius Right Turn Center 
TBD: 25° bank, 1.4 min, Rad: 6.4 nm

127° 08' 03"W

17° 55' 07" S


1m 24s

Totality Run Start (~ C2 – 2.0 minutes)
19:13:14 127° 05' 31"W
17° 49' 10" S


2m 00s

2nd Contact
126° 49' 02" W
17° 55' 36" S

45.8 27.4

4m 46s

126° 09' 40" W
18° 10' 50" S

46.3 24.9

4m 47s

3rd Contact
125° 30' 09" W
18° 26' 08" S

46.7 22.6

2m 00s

Totality Run End (~ C3 + 2 minutes) 19:26:47
125° 13' 40"W
18° 32' 33"S

46.6 22.6
90° Constant Radius  Right Turn Center
TBD: 25° bank, 1.4 min, Rad: 6.4 nm

125° 16' 13" W

18° 38' 40" S


1m 24s

Start Egress Shadow Viewing 19:28:11 125° 09' 59" W
18° 40' 24" S


10m 00s

End Egress Shadow Viewing 19:38:11
125° 37'  55" W 19° 53' 07" S 200.1

72.1° Constant Radius  Right Turn Center
TBD: 25° bank, 1.1 min, Rad: 6.4 nm

125° 44' 24" W

19° 50' 54" S


1m 07s

Start Inbound Cruise
125° 46' 38" W
19° 56'  56" S


2h 38m 34s

Est 4th Contact
(133° 18' 42" W)
(19° 31' 40"S)

End Inbound Cruise
147° 01' 39" W
17° 57' 09"S

Est Descent from FL 390

24m 00s

Est. Wheels-Down Papeete
149° 36' 41" W 17° 32" 24"S


06h 56m 32s

Notes:   Totality run to place the Sun "straight out" the main cabin windows at mid-eclipse.
              Wind correction for assumed 270°/55 kt wind during totality run is +2.9° for a Heading appx 114.9°.


Graphical Simulation of the "Totality Run" (click to view)

Click on the above picture for a second-by-second graphical simulation of the umbral centerline and aircraft tracks during  minute "Totality Run (6 Mb Quicktime file).

EFLIGHT 2010 — Optimization and Flexibility

As with previous EFLIGHTs, we remain flexible to modify the flight plan in real-time, within aircraft operating parameters, in reaction to flight conditions on eclipse day to enable an eclipse-optimized "totality run".  The exact duration of totality is dependent not only upon the specific geographical location (and altitude) at which our aircraft will centrally fly through the Moon's shadow, but also upon the details of its trajectory and its ground speed that are subject to variable winds. In baseline flight planning we assume a most-likely wind of 55 kts from 270° based upon the statistical average of historical mid-July winds aloft for our 19:20 UT mid-eclipse intercept location at 39,000 ft.  We also adopt a nominal true air speed of Mach 0.80 (459.2 nm/hr @ 39,000 ft), in the middle of the operational range of the A319 LR/ACJ aircraft, for greatest flexibility for in situ optimization based upon the actual winds aloft. 

Given the above planning assumptions, we can expect a duration of totality for a 19:20 UT intercept of appx. 9m 33s.  If in flight constraints and conditions permit, we could increase our true airspeed to Mach 0.82 (470.4 nm/hr) in which case the duration of totality would increase to 9m 42s.  In the statistically unlikely case of a "no wind" condition, and at a mid-operational air speed of Mach 0.80, totality would be reduced to "only" 8m 58s. 

Totality runs with other mid-eclipse intercepts can be built and be executed on an as-needed contingency-only basis.  Mid-eclipse intercepts earlier in time than 19:20 UT would reduce the achievable duration of totality to less than 9m 33s (with statistically most-likely winds and true airspeed of Mach 0.80), and later times up to ~ 19:30 UT would slightly increase the achievable duration of totality but with a diminishing time and cost vs. duration trade (see table below).   At this time, the 19:20 UT mid-eclipse intercept scenario is baselined.

UT mid-eclipse
Totality Duration
Alt° Az° Long.
08m 54.0s
129° 31' 50" W
17° 26' 36" S
09m 16.1s
127° 49' 07" W
17° 46' 22" S
09m 32.7s
126° 09' 40" W
18° 10' 50" S
09m 41.0s
124° 32' 37" W
18° 39' 50" S
09m 41.6s
122° 57' 14" W
19° 13' 15" S

Our EFLIGHT 2010 Aircraft  — The Skytraders Airbus A319 LR/ACJ

Our Skytraders A319 LR/ACJ has a virtually unmatched high degree of operational self-sufficiency and performance characteristics, unlike other aircraft of comparable or larger passenger carrying capacity.  Our aircraft is normally based in Australia, during the austral summer is often pressed into service supporting operations in Antarctica.   With this aircraft we are able to remove all of the sun-side seats, providing an optimal eclipse viewing environment for all passengers.  This twin-engine aircraft has more than sufficient endurance to conduct our appx 5000 km round-trip flight and is ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards)  rated to operate far from the nearest landing facility, and where we need it for our "middle of nowhere" 9-1/2 minutes of totality,    Read more about the unique capabilities of our Skytraders Airbus A319 LR/ACJ aircraft: HERE, and have a VR "look" around the cabin interior: HERE.

Have a look at the window layout and seating arrangements in the eclipse-viweing passenger cabin.  In the photos below these left-hand seats have not been removed from the aircraft -- but they will be for us.  (See HERE what that is like in a similarly configured [B727] aircraft; TSE 1974 flight launched from Australia.) 









ROW 12

ROW 11

ROW 10


ROW 16

ROW 15

ROW 14

ROW 13

The photos above (click any to enlarge) show the eclipse-viewing windows in our Skytraders Airbus A319 LR/ACJ aircraft but with the passenger seats to be removed still in place. The seats on the right side, where we will be sitting during take-off and landing will (of course!) be there, and are mirror-symmetric to those shown here - so you can see no cramped knees during cruise, even in the coach (economy) section of the cabin. (Of course there will be no cargo nets in the last four right-side seat rows during the EFLIGHT.)

INTERESTED?  ---> See Rick Brown's EFLIGHT 2010 French Polynesia Web site  <---

The EFLIGHT 2010 "Team"

Dr. GLENN SCHNEIDER. The TSE 2010 eclipse flight launched from Papeete will be conducted as an eclipse-optimized "EFLIGHT" under the technical direction of Dr. Glenn Schneider (Steward Observatory, The University of Arizona; see below) — following the precepts and procedures developed, tested, and validated on our previous TSE 2008, 2003, and 1992 EFLIGHTs — to provide the best views possible of the total phase of the eclipse.  Any umbraphiles with technical questions regarding EFLIGHT 2010 or observing the eclipse from the ground or in the air, are invited to contact Glenn at gschneider@as.arizona.edu.

RICK BROWN,  die-hard eclipse chaser and eclipse tour organizer is our "man on the ground" in French Polynesia who visited Tahiti in January 2010 to tend to all of the logistical details in coordination with our eclipse charter flight and its passengers.  Those who know Rick, know he is just the right person for this job.

JOHN BEATTIE. What can I say about John - other than he is one of the two most passionate people I have ever met when it comes to total solar eclipses (the other self-admittedly, myself).  John, I believe, is "tied" with me for standing (or flying) in the Moon's umbral shadow 28 times -- though we have not always been at the same location.  It was John who inspired me to "take a look" at what might be possible for a TSE 2010 EFLIGHT -- and so I have (obsessively, so, HE would say).  So, if you join us for this one - thank John for both the inspiration, and the instigation.



Last page update: 25 May 2010 13:37 MST