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Pilot diverts plane for passengers to see Aurora Borealis


Brocken Inaglory / Wikimedia

Red and green Aurora in Fairbanks, Alaska, 2007

Dolors Massot - published on 04/28/23

A newly engaged couple on board had traveled to Iceland with the hope of seeing the northern lights; the pilot's maneuver made it come true.
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In late February, Adam Groves traveled to Iceland with his girlfriend to propose to her. (As can be seen by his tweets on the occasion, she said “yes!”) One of the reasons they had chosen that destination for their weekend trip was because they were hoping to see the breathtaking northern lights, which can be seen most clearly in very northern latitudes. What better place than Iceland, also famous for its spectacular and otherworldly scenery?

However, as Groves told Manchester Evening News, the couple were unable to see any Aurora Borealis during their stay in Iceland due to low cloud cover.

On their return on an easyJet flight from Reykjavik to Manchester, while in mid-flight, the pilot spotted the shimmering red and green phenomenon in the sky. He decided to go literally out of his way to give his passengers a great view. Groves told the British news outlet what happened next: “We took off and half way into the flight the pilot turned all the lights off and the view was out the left window. We were sat on the right hand side and after two to three minutes the pilot switched back and did a 360 loop around for everyone to see.” The plane then rejoined the planned route without complications.

A tweet from a flight tracking service shows the loop in the flight’s trajectory:

By going the extra mile like this, the pilot gave all the passengers a special treat. In the process he fulfilled this engaged couple’s hopes for their trip.

The public’s reaction

Groves’ tweets about the experience went viral. His photos of the Aurora Borealis have accrued 2.8 million views, and his engagement photos nearly 150,000. The story was covered in news media around the world.

Some comments on social media speculated that the pilot might have faced consequences for his unplanned maneuver. Fortunately, such was not the case. easyJet told ABC News, “We are pleased that the captain on our flight from Reykjavik to Manchester yesterday evening was able to perform a controlled [maneuver] in order to allow passengers to witness an amazing display from the air of one of nature’s greatest sights, the Aurora Borealis. (…) Our crew will always go above and beyond for our customers and we’re delighted to have been able to share this special view of the northern lights with them.”

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