The first ever commercial flight to view the spectacular Southern Lights in mid-air landed in New Zealand last Friday. It carried a total of 134 passengers, who eventually posted their amazing journeys on various social media sites.
Also known as the Aurora Australis, the Air New Zealand flight NZ1980 flew to a latitude of 62 degrees south, a guaranteed view of the natural light show. Classified as a Boeing 767-319(ER) aircraft, it took off from the South Island on Thursday (9:23 p.m.) for almost an eight-hour flight towards the heart of the Aurora.
According to The Guardian, the organizers are planning to make a second one next year. The source added that the majority of the passengers loved the rare “adventure”. In fact, TVNZ reporter Mark Hathaway, who joined the travel, stated that the passengers spent around 4 hours of the flight viewing the Southern Lights.
For the record, the Aurora Australis and the Aurora Borealis (northern counterpart) occur when the Earth’s magnetic field interacts with charged particles from the sun. The privileged passengers shared their photos with the hashtag #flightothelights. Some added the #nofilterneeded caption on Instagram.
Meanwhile, Astronomer Ian Griffin spearheaded the trip, which was announced in October 2016. Griffin is the director of the Otago Museum in Dunedin. Per Live Science, the tickets were sold in pairs, a window and adjacent seats to be specific. The economy price was NZ$3,950 (New Zealand dollars), or around $2,770 USD.
In the business class, the round-trip tickets were sold at a whopping NZ$8,500, or roughly $5,972 USD. Well, the slots were immediately out in just five days. For his part, Griffin said he had the idea to start a commercial flight to the Aurora Australis after he had a glimpse of it on board the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).
SOFIA is a powerful NASA telescope attached to a Boeing 747.Griffin described the New Zealand flight as “absolutely brilliant.” He ended that the trip felt like people were looking at a “green, streaky river” floating in the air.