Flying in to see the eclipse

Eclipse Map

On the morning of 21 August 2017, Oregon will be the the first state in the U.S. to experience the total solar eclipse.  More information about all the Oregon communities that will experience totality can be had here: http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/states/OR.htm

Total solar eclipses are events that draw people from around the world and Oregon is expecting an influx of a million or more people coming to witness this event.

One Week Left

The eclipse is a week away now and options for flying in to Oregon to see the eclipse are growing thin.  A growing number of airports report that all parking is reserved for Eclipse Day.  The coast is a toss of the dice for weather.  If you fly in to Oregon and do not have a landing reservation, make sure to have enough fuel to divert – possibly significantly.

In Eastern Oregon, there was a sharp increase in fires and attendant TFRs this past weekend of 12-13 August.  If you have a reservation to fly into Madras or one of the other airports in that area, be sure to watch the TFRs closely.  At lower altitudes, visibility may be sharply restricted.  Be prepared.

Airports with NO parking space for Eclipse Day

The following Oregon airports are reported to have no aircraft parking space available for Eclipse Day.  Unless you have a reservation, you will not be allowed to land or will be turned away since they will not be able to park you.

Salem (KSLE)
Albany (S12)
Madras (S33)
Prineville (S39)
Bend (KBDN)
John Day State (KGCD)
Monument (12S)

At this point, it is very likely that all Oregon airports within or near the totality zone will be at capacity for aircraft parking.  If you do not have a reservation for parking by now, you will probably have to land well out of the totality zone.

Staring at the sun

A largest and coolest part of experiencing the eclipse is the watching of it.  Staring at the sun.  Don’t ruin your eyes and your ability to fly.  Get glasses that will enable you to safely watch the eclipse.  They can be ordered here.

Challenges that will be faced

There are a number of challenges that are associated with this event that must be considered before flying to Oregon to view the eclipse.

  • There are NO hotels available within the zone of totality and anywhere near.  Unless you have a firm reservation, you won’t get a hotel.  Similarly, there are no rental cars to be had.
  • There are no camping spaces available at National, State, or local camping areas.  In general, camping is not allowed at the airports.  Those who have made exception are full.
  • It is expected that because of the large amount of people, cellular networks will be overwhelmed.  Don’t count on cell access, especially on eclipse day.  This could also affect credit card purchases. Bring ample cash in case you have to stay a day or more.
  • Do not think you can chase the eclipse.  It moves at over 3000 mph.
  • Pilots flying in from the south will contend with the many firefighting TFRs in southern Oregon and the attendant smoke at lower altitudes.  Flying back to the south in the afternoon/evening is complicated by the nearly daily convective SIGMETs to the south and west of Klamath Falls.

The Oregon coast weather is not dependable in the summer.  Thick fog is a frequent challenge that can roll in very quickly.   There are only 4 airports on the Oregon coast within the zone of totality.  See the Oregon Coast article for more information.

Central Oregon weather in August can generally expected to be excellent. August is the height of fire season though, and smoke can reduce visibility – though it should not affect eclipse viewing.  See the Central Oregon article for more information.

Weather in Eastern Oregon in August is reliably excellent – though hot.  There are many firefighting TFRs around Madras.  If that is your destination, get familiar with them.   See the Eastern Oregon article for more information.  See the NOTAM

Tips for Success:

  • If you fly in on the morning of the eclipse, unless you have a parking reservation it is unlikely that you will be able to find a place to park your plane anywhere near the totality zone and will have to depart.  Make sure you have plenty of fuel.  Carry ample cash in case there are credit card problems.  ATMs are likely to be tapped out.
  • Have one or more alternates to which you can go if your chosen airport can’t take any more planes.
  • At the smaller airports, fuel may be an issue if they get very crowded.  Plan to fill up at an out-lying airport and then land with plenty to spare
  • Dress for success
  • Bring water, food, and something to give shade.  In central and eastern Oregon, you can count on it being quite hot with very intense sunshine
  • Be in contact with ATC coming into Oregon.  Seattle Center from the north and Cascade Approach from the south.  They maybe able to give an idea of what you may be facing at your chosen destination.  Do not count on being able to get VFR services.

 

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