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Upcoming Solar Eclipse Could Impact Business Aircraft Operations

Aug. 9, 2017

Some business aircraft flights may be affected by the total solar eclipse that will occur on Aug. 21, said Heidi Williams, NBAA’s director of air traffic services and infrastructure.

As the moon moves in front of the sun that day, a “path of totality” will develop in portions of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. This rare event has created intense demand for airport services in these areas, and operators should expect delays to ground support, parking and possibly even approach sequencing to busier airports.

Total solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth and blocks all or part of the sun. The last time the contiguous U.S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979.

Pilots should also check NOTAMs carefully for possible TFRs and other events that could affect planned flights around Aug. 21. With numerous airports hosting eclipse viewing events, Williams said NBAA “will monitor the situation and relay any traffic management initiatives put in place to members.”

One such event is the Solar Eclipse Festival taking place at Casper-Natrona County International Airport (CPR) in Casper, WY. Another event will be a high-altitude balloon launch in conjunction with the Eclipse Ballooning Project, in which nearly 100 high-altitude balloons will be launched across the country to capture live footage of the eclipse. While FAA air traffic control centers regularly see high-altitude weather balloons in their airspace, this project is different because dozens of balloons will take flight in a short period of time.

“We are expecting air traffic will be up in the path of totality, and many airports in that path are also hosting events on August 21, which will further increase air traffic,” Williams said. “We encourage operators to check with their destination FBOs to ensure needed ground support services will be available if operating in or near the path of totality.”

As an example, Williams said that Atlantic Aviation at CPR was “down to a handful of parking slots for Aug. 21” and will probably run out of available parking before that day.