Lehigh Valley Flying Club Members On the Path of Totality
In the early morning hours of Aug 21st, 2017, four club members fired up our Cessna 182 (N5089N) and headed south to watch the solar eclipse. Victor Cimerol, Bob Sacco (one of the club’s great CFI’s), Joe Loscalzo and Chris Soza departed Allentown (KABE) at 0515hrs on an IFR flight plan through clear skies at 8,000 feet. Victor flew the first leg with Bob assisting from the right seat. After a little over two hours, they stopped in Roanoke Virginia (KROA) for fuel and a stretch.
Joe handled the next leg with Chris taking on right seat duties and they all settled in for the approximately 1 ½ hour hop to their destination. Shortly after 1000hrs, the adventurous group landed in South Carolina’s Greenville Downtown Airport (KGMU) and grabbed an Uber into town. After a stroll around Falls Park, in the middle of town, they stopped for a bite to eat.
The intrepid aviators found a spot on a bridge and waited for the orbits to align. As the moon passed over the sun, things became progressively darker and a little cooler. Having donned their “fancy” eclipse glasses, they witnessed the moon creeping across the sun making it look like a cookie with a giant bite taken out. Finally, at 2pm, the sun was totally obscured and twilight descended in the middle of the afternoon. Street lights came on, the temperature dropped, crickets chirped and frogs croaked. After about 2 and a half minutes, the sun peaked out creating a stunning diamond ring effect. It was truly a once in a lifetime event.
The team returned to the airport and reboarded the plane. The airport and airspace was jammed with eclipse viewers trying to head home. Greer Approach advised that they were not issuing IFR clearances and they were not providing flight following. All departures were VFR at your own risk!
Chris flew the first return leg with Bob assisting from the right. The flight was restricted to 3,000 feet for the first half hour until able to clear the Greenville airspace. Eventually, able to climb higher, flight following was obtained from Potomac Approach. Cross country flying presents many challenges, and this flight was no different. By this time, clouds had built up along the route of travel. However, approach was still not issuing IFR flight plans and the group was forced to dodge the billowing cumulous until the fuel stop in Charlottesville, Virginia (KCHO).
The final leg from Virginia to ABE was flown by Bob with Victor manning the right seat. The crew was able to dodge some forming thunderstorms in Maryland and PA with the help of ATC and good use of the on board Stratus. The flight arrived back at our home base shortly before 10pm. The team was tired and grateful for the opportunity to enjoy this adventure.
The flight crew (L-R): Bob, Victor, Chris, Joe