The Houlton, Maine eclipse experience

As noted in How’s your eclipse viewing?, I wussed out on the Fredericksburg, Texas eclipse plan in favor of hitting the shorter-totality Northeast where the forecast was for clear skies. As with nearly all of my decisions, this one turned out to be bad because the friend I had planned to visit/join in Austin ended up having a perfect view of totality (the clouds disappeared due to the cooling effect of the eclipse somehow).

The day started with pocketing snacks at Jet Aviation in Bedford, Maskachusetts (Hanscom Field):

We loaded up the plane with three generations of my friend’s family and had an uneventful VFR flight at 17,500′ to KHUL (Houlton, Maine). The FAA had issued a cautionary NOTAM:

To assist FBOs with staging aircraft and to ease ramp congestion, aircraft departing airports along the eclipse path are strongly encouraged to coordinate their departure times as early as possible. There may be a higher traffic volume than normal anticipated at airports along the path of the eclipse. Traffic should anticipate delays during peak traffic periods. Aircraft parking may be limited, particularly at the smaller, uncontrolled airports.

And, indeed, many airports in Vermont had instituted a prior permission required (PPR) policy. Watching the eclipse while celebrating social justice and Bernie Sanders in Burlington, VT, for example, wasn’t possible last-minute. Despite this somewhat dire forecast from the FAA, we had no trouble getting VFR advisories from Air Traffic Control all the way into KHUL and there was no shortage of parking.

The town-run airport had plowed out its crosswind runway and had that available for parking, but used it for only about four larger planes.

2700′ of parking is a lot of parking!

They were short on fuel, but we managed to 50 gallons of Jet A in order to keep Greta Thunberg happy. Speaking of Greta T, here’s a Citation Sovereign that came in from Minneapolis. The forecast for much of the Midwest was clear, but apparently not clear enough for these (12?) Heroes of Climate Change (1,700 gallons and over 30,000 lbs. max takeoff weight!):

Some images need to be repeated from the earlier post. A partial eclipse of the sun by the moon(-ey):

The town set up a “star park” adjacent to the airport and organized a two-schoolbus shuttle between downtown and the airport:

As noted previously, downtown was hosting a lively party with music and dressed-up characters and a commitment to social justice (“All Labs Matter”):

The George Washington statue was augmented, Elizabeth Warren’s cousins danced, and costumes were worn:

All of the parks in the downtown area were filled with viewers, but never unpleasantly crowded. Note the logging truck crossing the Meduxnekeag River:

Quite a few NASA and NOAA employees seemed to be enjoying a taxpayer-funded vacation trip to see the eclipse and some of them gave talks or organized events:

I thought that these folks with a Pennsylvania plate won the award for longest drive to Houlton, but apparently someone drove more than 1,400 miles to Houlton from north of Chicago.

There were lines for most of the restaurants in town, but food trucks had come in both on Main St. and at the airport. More important, the local Amish were selling donuts for $2 each:

The Amish grow potatoes, of course, but also have quite a few greenhouses. Speaking of religion, the official established U.S. religion is observed in Houlton:

At 1:45 pm we caught the shuttle back to the airport in prep for totality at 3:32 pm.

The ramp was lively, but nowhere near as crammed as a typical South Florida airport in the winter:

Of course, we did see the eclipse! Canon RF800/11 lens for eclipse totality:

Edward Tufte tells speakers to arrive early because people wander in gradually and then leave suddenly. Thus, it is better to be available for questions before a talk! It wasn’t a mad rush for the exit, but the airport and airspace was at least 5X busier for departure compared to arrival. It didn’t seem practical to get advisories from Boston Center until we were well southwest of Bangor and on a different frequency from the airspace over Houlton. The NetJets crew couldn’t depart for quite some time because they had trouble getting ATC’s attention for an IFR clearance and their ops specs prevent them from doing the obvious and departing VFR.

The Science education didn’t stop in Houlton. When returning to the Land of Science-denial via Logan Airport, I learned that an N95 mask works great when loosely arranged over a full beard. Also that healthy young females face maximum risk from SARS-CoV-2:

Some nice views of the city courtesy of Delta Airlines:

Maybe they should paint the roof of every building that houses migrants red so that air travelers can see how much Boston is doing to enrich the lives of native-born Americans. (See “Migrant shelter plan for one of Boston’s most expensive neighborhoods making some furious” (CBS) and also “Wu [the mayor of Boston] seeks commercial property tax rate increase to prevent a spike in residential taxes” (state-sponsored NPR): “A recent report by the Boston Policy Institute found the city may lose $1.4 billion in tax revenue over the next five years due to empty office spaces. Boston could also face a recurring shortfall of about $500 million each year after that first half-decade, the report found.”)

Conclusion: We should pray to the omnipotent God of the Sacred Trans-Enhanced Rainbow Flag to arrange all future eclipses so that they pass over Houlton.

Let’s close this out with some porn for aircraft owners:

(Big city airports are now at $1,000/month for a long-term lease on a hangar for a little Cessna or Cirrus. In post-Cuomo South Florida, now home to half of what used to be New York’s planes, you might pay $1,200-1,500/month to store a plane that, pre-Biden, was worth $80,000.)


  • “Massachusetts family among Tesla owners who waited hours to charge car after total solar eclipse” (WCVB): When the Livesey family found a charging station in St. Johnsbury, there were lines of electric vehicles dozens deep. “I got there with one mile only to find out there were about 60 cars waiting to be charged,” Livesey said. … The Livesey family waited more than four hours to charge their Tesla and the last ticket they handed out before leaving was No. 189, and they saw more vehicles pulling up to the stations. [A friend missed totality due to EV charging delays. He tried to get his kids up to northern Vermont from Boston and a combination of traffic and the time required for a mid-trip charge of his electric Ford pickup meant that they couldn’t get far enough north in time.]

12 thoughts on “The Houlton, Maine eclipse experience

  1. We drove up to Plattsburgh airport and watched the eclipse with about 60 West Point cadets who were bused up with some instructors to watch the eclipse and measure it with a telescope—got some nice projections of it onto a screen. You have a nice view of the solar prominence in your pic, it looked red to the naked eye where we were.

    It was great to see Jupiter and Venus — rare to feel like you’re looking at the actual solar system in 3-D like that!

    6 hour drive up, 9 hours back.

  2. Flying to it doesn’t allow taking a lot of gear. Maybe it’s worth renting a van & for us tax paying chumps, taking a week off, to be able to travel with a lot of gear. Coming to terms that 2017 would be the last time lions would have that much gear for a total eclipse. Probably won’t have as much visual acuity in 2045 for the last one within driving range.

    • lion: how much gear do you want to take?!?! A PC-12 can hold more than 50 sea turtles, as we’ve previously proven. This particular example can carry about 2,300 lbs. for the 1.25-hour flight between Bedford and Houlton. That’s about 30 Labs (all of which matter)!

  3. Nice to see a Sovereign. To my eye, it’s one of the prettiest jets, with sleek elegant proportions. Prices for Sovereigns went crazy during covid, and asking price today for a 2014 w 2700hrs is almost what it originally sold for.

    • The moon pie was invented in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is free of income tax. Maine did NOT invent this dessert and hits residents with a 7.15 percent income tax rate.

  4. The story and photos are great! And the shot of the eclipse makes me think you have some photo experience.

    Total dud here in The Bahamas.

  5. Took the helicopter from KLCI to a private hilltop camp in Pittsburg, NH. Totality was phenomenal. Flew back through Franconia Notch just to marvel at the insane, ground-bound lemmings parked on the highway.

    • TS: The plane was painted in 2019 by the same folks who paint Donald Trump’s helicopter fleet. Full story in

      The plane was and is a 50/50 partnership. So the former 1/2 owner is the current 1/2 owner! He wanted to move to Florida, but his wife has a lot of family in New England and the question of whether to move was decided under a One Woman; One Vote system.

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