Total Solar Eclipse of 1999 August 11
from Air France Concorde F-BVFC flight AF4500
Twenty-six years after the first Hall-of-Fame Concorde 001 record flight during the 1973 June 30 total solar eclipse, three other commercial Concorde were in the umbral path of this new eclipse. One was affreted by Air France (AF4500) and two by British Airways (BA99S and BA91N). Concorde was the only civilian plane able to "chase" the eclipse because of its speed superior to Mach 2 and because the speed of the umbra was about Mach 2.3 over Europe. Thus the three Concorde managed to stay in the shadow for about 4 to more than 5 minutes (for AF4500). However only the Air France Concorde passengers had the opportunity to view this eclipse from the cabin with a line-of-sight angle barely under 50 degrees during totality which didn’t facilitate the observations; the two British Airways Concorde passengers had an even worse line-of-sight angle at 60 degrees which made observations even more difficult and a totality duration under 4 minutes. The photographies were taken from the Concorde cockpit on Air France flight AF4500. The simulation below, made with my Solar Eclipse Maestro software, refutes the claim that the passengers had over 8 minutes of totality as it was said in the documentary. After the crash of the Concorde on 2000 July 25th, those three flights were the last to intercept the umbral shadow cone and the 1973 record with its mighty 73 minutes won’t be broken anytime soon, the 2001 June 21st flight having been cancelled.
In this short documentary Jean Prunin, the Concorde’s captain, who prepared the eclipse flight plan claims they had 8 minutes and 10 seconds of totality. However, they only had slightly over 5 minutes and 10 seconds of totality as the above simulation clearly shows. What lasted 8 minutes and 10 seconds is the whole run on the map below that includes some of the partial phases (in dark blue) before and after totality (in red). The flight plan, which can be seen on two pictures above and on the figure below, was to start the interception at N4950.0 and W01300.0, end it at N5020.0 and W00900.0 (complete flight plan in Google Earth, description in French of the computations done by Jean Prunin which explain the small mistakes made).
A later intercept combined with a flight parallel to the umbra would have allowed a totality duration of nearly 6 minutes, and even more if flying at Mach 2 over Cape Lizard had been authorized.
Rencontre avec une ombre - Encounter with a shadow (duration: 5 minutes 36 seconds)
[requires an H.264/MPEG-4 decoder: Windows users can install the Windows Essentials Codec Pack]