Flying at Dusk

Yellow_NC State Park

2014-10-30 – I like to fly at dusk. This doesn’t happen often. It depends on the time of year. And it may depend on which direction I am flying. The most memorable dusk flights have been east to west. The east-to-west components of my trips to the west coast are always in the morning.

Yesterday I flew home to Chicago from Raleigh/Durham. We landed in Chicago at about 6:10 PM. Sunset was 5:49, but the sky above the clouds was still bright until we descended through them.

The most spectacular thing was watching the sun set. It was like watching the sun set into the ocean. The clouds (probably stratus) were flat with waves out to the horizon. The sky above was blue, shading to pink at the horizon. The sun descended through the pink into the clouds and then was gone.

Shortly after that we descended through the clouds. It was night below the clouds. We emerged over Lake Michigan. A spectacular web of light stretched off to the distance. I’m guessing we were about 5600 North. Montrose harbor was to the left and beyond that was the lakefront and the Loop. I found Sheridan and Clark Street and Ashland. Then Lincoln Avenue, the Edens, and finally the Kennedy, which we followed almost until we landed.

I don’t remember much about my first dusk flight, except that dusk lasted for hours. I was flying from Copenhagen to New York in early January 1970. At that high latitude, the speed of the jet partially cancelled out the rotation of the earth, which accounted for the unusually long dusk.

I remember a flight from Toronto to Chicago in the late 90s. That flight was unusual because all (or most) of the visible planets were aligned to be visible in the sky near the setting sun. It was a treat to see the plane of the solar system displayed as a diagonal line of lights in the sky, starting with the final glow of the sun, then Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. And, of course, Earth was visible, too.

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