The Best Airports for Viewing the Solar Eclipse

GA airports in the line of totality are running out of room for the big day, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck.

With the solar eclipse less than two weeks away, airports throughout the line of totality are bracing for heavy traffic. At Salem Municipal Airport in Oregon, one of the first North American airports in the line of totality, the staff expects the epic event to be their busiest day ever. “We’re planning for hundreds of aircraft and hundreds of people,” the airport’s manager told a local news outlet last month.

But don’t start packing for Salem now – only pilots with reservations will have a spot, and McNary Field is booked solid. In fact, all 120 spots are claimed, and there are at least 50 people on a waiting list. You might have better luck at Madras Municipal Airport in central Oregon, about three hours away, where the staff has made a little extra room for visitors.

On any given day, Madras has 125 parking spots available for small aircraft. On August 21, the day of the solar eclipse? They’re squeezing 250 planes into those spots, and as of July 21 the airport had more than 300 reservations, with about 50 more spots available.

“We actually are getting requests from people down in California, Idaho, Washington, people flying in to go see the eclipse here,” Ron Peters, the manager of Salem Aviation Fueling, told KHOU.

Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Regional Airport started receiving calls for reservations a year ago, as it is also within the line of totality. According to airport manager Dean Selby, Upper Cumberland can take 120 reservations “comfortably,” and as of July there were only 27 spots claimed. Today, a rep told Flying, 50 spots are reserved and some spots remain. Prices vary depending on the aircraft and Selby expects to be packed by the time people are wearing their viewing glasses.

As for commercial airlines, ticket prices are through the roof for some of the major cities in the line of totality. While a ticket to Columbia, South Carolina, costs approximately $395 (an increase of nine percent, according to Hipmunk), airfare to Nashville might set you back $708 (an increase of 75 percent). That price obviously depends on where you’re flying from. For example, the ticket price of a flight from L.A. to Portland has increased 100 percent from last year. The cheapest seat on a Frontier flight from Orlando to Nashville still runs about $400. However, if you’re in Chicago and looking for a quick trip to see the full eclipse, a ticket to St. Louis is somehow cheaper than it was a year ago.

eclipse totality
Eclipse viewers in or near these cities will have a remarkable view of the total solar eclipse. NASA

That’s probably easier than a direct flight to Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, where Express Flights predicted back in July that at least 200 flights would be coming in on the day of eclipse. “It could be twice that many, I don’t know,” Express Flights President Gary Patterson said. “You just cannot even believe the calls we’re getting every day, it’s just unbelievable. I’ve just never seen anything like this before in my life.”

If your preferred viewing location is on an airplane, Southwest has you covered. The airline is offering viewing glasses (which are recommended wherever you decide to watch) and “cosmic cocktails” for passengers on any flight to a city within the line of totality. Southwest has even picked five specific flights that will offer the best view of the eclipse.

In Boise, Aviation Specialties Unlimited [is offering a package](In Boise, Aviation Specialties Unlimited is offering a package for eclipse hunters who can’t be fulfilled by the limited view offered by a commercial airline’s tiny window. Cities like Midvale and Idaho Falls will offer a fantastic look at the totality of the eclipse (for approximately 1 minute and 44 seconds), and so ASU is putting its Bell 206 helicopter and Cessna 206 airplane in the sky for three round trips. The price is steeper than an airline ticket, but you also won’t be surrounded by other passengers and stuck with no view in an aisle seat either.) for eclipse hunters who can’t be fulfilled by the limited view offered by a commercial airline’s tiny window.

In Wyoming, Casper–Natrona County International Airport is gaining international attention. People from 19 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Russia and Argentina, have called the U.S. Customs office in Casper about flying their private jets in for the eclipse, according to the AP. That means the state’s lone immigration officer will be busy, as the airport’s access and the fact that the region will see approximately 2 minutes and 25 seconds of the total eclipse.

North America’s point of longest eclipse will occur to the southeast of Carbondale, Illinois, and that will subsequently be the location of NASA’s live stream. Southern Illinois Airport is welcoming pilots and campers for the big event, and the staff is asking that people fill out the questionnaire on the airport’s website ahead of their visit. Food will be served with a suggested donation of $2.40, which is a nod to the two minutes and 40 seconds the eclipse will last at this particular airport.

The cheapest option, of course, is to simply watch the eclipse live on NASA’s stream.


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