The Qantas one-off “flight to nowhere” to view the supermoon and lunar eclipse on Wednesday night ultimately gave passengers the best possible view of the event from a seat on their Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The flight departed from Sydney Airport at 7.30pm and climbed to a cruising altitude of more than 40,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, well away from city lights for the three hour tour.
Among the 180 guests on board included a 14-year-old high school student, a crown prosecutor, an amateur photographer and a 90-year-old former Qantas flight attendant.
The flight sale, which saw all seats sell out in just two-and-a-half minutes of online sales, was dubbed one of the most popular on record for the airline.
The total lunar eclipse began at 21.11 AEST. During this time, the pilots dimmed the cabin lights as the moon crossed into the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow, and passengers experienced the eclipse for 14 minutes and 30 seconds.
This total eclipse was relatively short because the Moon was only passing through a small section of the Earth’s umbra.
It is understood passengers dined on ‘supermoon cakes’ and cosmic cocktails, while CSIRO astronomer Dr Vanessa Moss provided expert insights into the science behind supermoons and lunar eclipses.
“We had designated airspace set aside for us around 465 kilometres off the coast of Sydney and we mapped out the flight path based around the trajectory of the Moon rising and the timing of the total eclipse,” Qantas chief technical pilot, Captain Alex Passerini, said.
“We executed a series of turns to ensure passengers on both sides of the aircraft got great views of the Moon at various times.”
The flight saw economy fares on the flight at $499, $899 for premium economy and $1499 for business class seat.
Qantas pilots have worked with the CSIRO to develop the optimal flight path over the Pacific Ocean to catch the supermoon in all its glory.
The Moon was at its closest point at 11.50am AEST on May 26, coming within 357,311km of Earth.
The total lunar eclipse occurred between 9.11pm and 9.25pm AEST, when the Moon is 357,462km from Earth.