Flying through the solstice

By: Dave Gunner

July 1, 2016

Captain Chris Betts flies into the sunrise on the summer solstice


Summer Solstice marks the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere and the start of summer. It is a special time of year when druids gather at Stonehenge, the Glastonbury festival happens and many people enjoy long warm evenings in the garden. This year’s solstice also brought an extra attraction – a once in a generation instance of the solstice occurring at the same time as a strawberry moon.

But if you want the very best view of this annual spectacle then grab a flight that tracks across the north of our planet.

On the night of the solstice we joined Captain Chris Betts on a Boeing 747 as he flew it back from Las Vegas. Because of the time of year and northerly track of the flight, the night never got completely dark and we watched the sun skim just below the horizon before coming back up. It’s on nights like this, from their office window at 37,000 feet, that our pilots really can literally see the earth turning.

Join Captain Betts on this flight in the video below.


What is a strawberry moon?
The full moon that occurs in June was named the strawberry moon to mark the beginning of the strawberry picking season in North America.  It does not mean that the moon takes on a pink hue. The next year when the strawberry moon falls on a summer solstice is 2062.

And the solstice?
The solstice marks the longest day of the year and always falls between the 20 and the 22 June. This year it occurred at 4:45am (BST) on the 20 June. The solstice and its symbolism of renewal and fertility is celebrated in many different cultures and practices.


The view from the 747 flight deck


To see more flight deck views head over to the #myoffice shots on our instagram account

And here, for the treasure hunters among you…




Dave Gunner

Dave is the co-editor of Ruby, the Virgin Atlantic Blog. He has worked at Virgin Atlantic for over two decades. In that time he has amassed some truly epic memories but never lost his fascination with the airline world. Dave's on a mission to bring you some great insights into our people, planes and planet.