Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Kilmarnock

View from above: Pilot shares F8 solar eclipse flight

by Jack Jennings

In 1970, I was flying F8 Crusaders in VF1 IA l, based at the Naval Air Facility, Andrews AFB in Camp Springs, Md.  My drill weekend was coming up when I read in the newspaper that a full solar eclipse of the sun was scheduled for that Saturday, March 7. The eclipse would only be partial in the Washington area but would be full further to the East.

Bill Davis and I were scheduled for instrument training but I suggested to him that we do some Eclipse reconnaissance. He was all for it. We took off about 1000 feet, climbed up to 18000 feet, and headed South toward the Norfolk area; we then turned to the Southwest over North Carolina and toward the South Carolina line. It was a nice sunny day as we proceeded on our way.

Down around the NC/SC border we started to notice something up ahead which resembled a storm cloud that rose high into the sky. As we got closer to this dark phenomenon it began to look more and more like darkness; however, when we looked out to the side of our route it was still a nice sunny day. We were soon in the dark area and we could see lights in structures on the ground. We were night flying but the sunny day was still in plain view off in the distance. We circled and made some turns to stay in the dark area as it was moving to the Northeast.

When we maneuvered away from the dark center it became more like dusk or dawn; the dark center was about 50 miles in diameter and in that area it was night time on the ground. However, when we looked out towards the Atlantic or in a Westerly direction, it was still a sunny day.

We followed the Eclipse North as it entered Virginia; by that time it was definitely moving Northeast and heading out to sea. We were now getting a little low on fuel so we dropped down and landed at NAS Oceana where we went thru the refueling pits.

We were soon airborne again and getting a little instrument training before our return to Andrews.

Jack Jennings is a resident of Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury near Irvington.

Rappahannock Record Staff
Rappahannock Record Staffhttp://www.rrecord.com
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