PERRYVILLE, MO. - In southern Missouri, a small airport in the path of totality hosted pilots and visitors from all around the country Monday.
Perryville Regional Airport was an ideal spot to watch the eclipse. The airport hosted a party for people looking for the rare show, and more than 150 pilots and their guests made the trip.
“I think this is the closest airport to our house, in a straight line, to totality,” said Tom Rhines, who flew with his family from Texas. “This is the closest 450 miles or so.”
“One day, there and back, we’ll be back by 5:30 tonight, hopefully,” said Dave Haack, who flew from Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“It’s about a three-hour flight for us, looked like a good place,” said Rob Heflin, who flew with his cousin from Mississippi. “We can be home and eat supper in Mississippi,” he joked.
Airport Manager Larry Dauer said he didn’t realize the airport would be such a popular place to watch the eclipse until he started taking dozens of phone calls from pilots.
“They’re coming from all over the states, east of the Rockies. I had one call from Ontario, Canada, I had one call from Malta, south of Italy,” he said. “Probably the most activity this airport has seen since World War II.”
The airport’s event also included scientists who launched balloons with cameras to take pictures and study the eclipse, and visitors from the area.
Perryville had about 2:30 of totality, with clear skies above the airport.
The crowd cheered as the moon moved to fully block the sun.
“That was absolutely one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen,” said Bob Salvatore, with the Astronomical Society of the Toms River Area in New Jersey.
There was one emergency incident at the airport following the eclipse Monday.
As planes were leaving, one pilot had trouble during take-off. He lost control of his plane on the runway, veered into the grass, and the plane flipped with him still inside. First responders said the man was not injured and refused treatment at the scene.
He was the only person inside the plane at the time of the accident.
Not long after, other planes resumed taking off.
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