1868: Eclipse Flights
Title text: The captain has turned on the 'fasten seat belt' sign.
A total solar eclipse occurred on Monday, August 21, 2017, just under a month after this comic was published. It was visible as a total eclipse in a narrow band across the contiguous United States from Oregon on the Pacific coast to South Carolina on the Atlantic. Cueball asks Megan what she is doing, which turns out to be mapping the flights of aircraft that will be flying through the path of totality during the eclipse. She has found between 50 to 100 such flights.
While most flights during the eclipse are coincidental, a few airlines had special flights planned for the occasion. Alaska Airlines, for example, chartered an invitation only flight for about 50 astronomers and serious eclipse chasers.
On the map, the center of the greatest eclipse is shown on the border between Illinois and Kentucky. Cueball says that the airlines and pilots will be prepared and aware of the situation, but Megan wonders what it would be like on a plane with an unprepared crew. The last panel shows a plane flying into the area of the eclipse with one of the crew telling the passengers that the end of the world has come.
In many cultures such as ancient Egypt, the end of the world is represented by a great darkness and the sun going out. During past eclipses, people were said to have believed the world was ending much like this comic (except without planes). This could also be a reference to 1391: Darkness as in that comic the reporters also believed a natural event to be the world ending although in a different setting.
The title text refers to the 'fasten seat belts' signs on display for the passengers, as a precautionary measure for turbulence. Many pop-culture depictions of the end of the world feature storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, etc; as the captain believes that the end of the world is upon them, he feels it safe to ensure his passengers are prepared for turbulence from any of the phenomena that occur during the end times. However, the precaution of having one's seat belt fastened is vastly insufficient when confronted with such catastrophic events.
This was the first reference to the Eclipse within a month of the totality. It was followed less than three weeks later by 1876: Eclipse Searches. The 2017 eclipse was mentioned as early as 2013 in the title text of 1302: Year in Review. And this year's New Year comic, 1779: 2017, also mentions it. Both comics express concern, in the title text, that it would be canceled/not happen.
- [Cueball is standing behind Megan, looking over her shoulder as she's seated in front of her laptop.]
- Cueball: What's that?
- Megan: Flight plans. Looks like there will be 50 to 100 flights whose route puts them in the path of the eclipse next month.
- [A map with a shaded path of the eclipse and red planes traveling is shown, with nine planes inside the path and one inside the eclipse shadow.]
- Cueball: I'm sure the airlines will be prepared. Pilots know that stuff.
- Megan: But can you imagine being on the one flight where the pilot didn't?
- [In a more detailed scene, a Boeing 737 Next Generation airliner is shown flying over a landscape into a curtain of darkness.]
- Captain: *KSSCHHH* [sound of intercom being activated]
- Captain: This is your captain speaking. If you look out the right side of the plane, you'll see, uhh...
- Captain: Folks, this appears to be the end times.
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