Mostly Orderly GA Onslaught In Oregon
Pilots from across the West Coast flocked to central Oregon Monday to watch the first solar eclipse to cross the continental United States since 1979. At Albany Municipal Airport, the approximately 50 aircraft normally based there were joined by roughly 65 more, from single-seat homebuilts to big piston twins. The local FBO, Infinite Air Center, was perhaps over-prepared. Transient visitors received a detailed briefing by email, and on Monday morning the FBO was well-stocked with the essentials: coffee, toilet paper and eclipse viewing glasses. Most pilots were aware of the restrictions on landing without prior parking reservations, but a few could be heard on CTAFs around the area asking if FBOs could take “just one more” airplane. Pilots flying into Madras Airport, which lies almost exactly in center of the path of the eclipse, north of Bend, Oregon, while treated to an extra 25 seconds of totality, experienced jaw-dropping departure delays as over 80 aircraft queued for takeoff.
Air traffic control in the region was not as well prepared for the surge in traffic caused by the massive migration after the main event. One Seattle Center controller told pilots: “All Seattle Center and Cascade Approach frequencies are unable to provide flight following at this time. There are millions of you … Millions of you.” TRACONs were over capacity for flight following as much as 400 miles south of the eclipse path as hundreds of aircraft streamed into California over the course of the afternoon.