a red airplane wing in the sky

The Northern Lights are every bit as magical as you’ve read. They dance, they move, changing color and shape at every turn. People go to insane lengths to see these fabled neon night skies, and even with the best tips for finding them, many people strike out.

Apparently, last night everyone saw them at the same time, or so Instagram tells me.

Many years ago, on two consecutive, back to back journeys somewhere far north over the Atlantic, I managed to see the Northern Lights and it’s still the coolest thing I’ve done in the sky. One experience could not have been more incredible.

a man wearing safety glasses and a vestA Quick Background

Circa 2017, I was in Seattle getting the rare privilege of a private Boeing factory tour.

British Airways was picking up a brand new 787 Dreamliner and invited me along for the ride. After the factory tour, we were delivering the aircraft to London for the first time, to enter service.

There were only about 25 people on board- which made for a lot of fun photographing an empty cabin, sitting in every seat on the plane and even getting locked in storage (unofficially of course). But all that aside, being on a private flight created one unique advantage for the Northern lights. a plane on the tarmaca plane with windows and a table

After Sunset, The Captain Got On The PA System

“We know none of you are used to flying economy, but since we have no passengers in the economy cabin, we’ve decided to entirely dim the cabin and turn off all electronics- because there’s about to be a spectacular Northern Lights display out of the port windows”.

My heart instantly began to pound. I’d always heard about Northern lights in the air- but have always been asleep or on a flight where they were too faint to notice. By turning off all the lights, light pollution would be greatly cut down, making the effect of the lights far more dramatic.

an airplane wing in the sky

Sure enough… they started to appear.

a red object in the sky

And then WOW. There they were. Dancing, twisting moving- breathtaking. Truly. One of the greatest sights I’ve ever seen and one I hope I see over and over again.

a close up of windowsa man and woman walking towards an airplaneSeeing Them Again: Still Awesome- But Not The Same.

On my flight back to New York the next evening- of all things, I saw them AGAIN! This time I was on a full flight, full of light pollution. I lack the photo skills to properly dial a shot like this in, but I can tell you it was much more difficult than my attempts on the way out.

Every screen, every button, every light detracts from the view out the window. Nonetheless, it was amazing to witness and something that I wish for every reader to experience. The view from 40,000 feet may be even better than that on the ground…

Northern Lights

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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