The FAA Has Issued a Travel Warning Ahead of the Total Solar Eclipse

Delays along the path of totality are likely

March 27, 2024 4:57 pm
The 2017 total solar eclipse
The 2017 total solar eclipse
Getty Images

In the event that you’ve been living under a rock these past few weeks, we’re fast approaching the next total solar eclipse, colloquially known as the “Great North American Eclipse.” Set to travel “a narrow path of totality from across 13 U.S. states” on April 8, this eclipse really has the people going. Case in point: when Delta announced it would be operating a path of totality flight, it sold out in less than 24 hours — and for good reason. Totality, the stage of a solar eclipse in which the moon completely blocks the sun, happens once every year or two and is typically only visible from Earth’s poles or the middle of the ocean. 

That said, it might not make for an altogether smooth day of travel for those with plans to do so. In fact, the FAA has released a travel advisory stating as much. “The purpose of this notice is to inform airmen of the possible impacts to air traffic and airports along the eclipse path during the period April 7, 2024, 1000 UTC through April 10, 2024, 0400 UTC,” it reads.

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The long and short of it is that there may be a higher traffic volume than normal anticipated at airports along the path of the eclipse, which may cause delays — particularly during peak times — though fortunately, no better or worse than the delays we’ve come to associate with other high-travel days.

Aircraft, the notice says, should be prepared for “potential airborne holding” — a tactic designed to delay an inbound aircraft — “reroutes and/or Expect Departure Clearance Times (EDCTs) that may be issued for all domestic Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) arrivals and departures.” Further, practice approaches, touch-and-goes, flight following services and pilot training operations at airports might also be “extremely limited” and “possibly prohibited” during the aforementioned time period.

The advisory applies to airports within 50 nautical miles of either side of the path of the eclipse in the United States, so only travelers coming from or going to Texas, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and eastern Canada stand to be impacted.

What the notice doesn’t warn against, however, is looking straight at the eclipse (even if the sun is totally covered by the moon) from the plane. For the uninitiated, in the absence of proper eye protection like eclipse glasses or handheld solar viewers, you run the risk of burning your retinas by looking at it. So be prepared for a little more congestion than an average Monday, subsequent delays and definitely do not stare directly at the eclipse.


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