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Here's the only way to get an unobstructed view of the eclipse

If you can find a plane, you'll have the best eclipse experience ever. 

<p>A fantastic view of one of nature's greatest spectacles, a total solar eclipse, taken from an airplane some 3,200 meters above Turkana, Kenya, Sept. 2014.</p>

If you're worried about clouds ruining your solar eclipse experience Aug. 21, there is one surefire way to see the spectacle: From an aircraft that will fly above any pesky weather problems.

What's being called the Great American Eclipse will be visible from Oregon to South Carolina. While people on the ground will only see the total eclipse for 2 or 3 minutes, those in the air will get to see it for a while longer.

Although some folks might be able to afford to charter a jet, or perhaps even own one, what should the rest of us do?

For starters, one airline, Alaska Airlines, will charter a flight over the Pacific so select passengers can see the eclipse from the sky. The flight will take off at 7:30 a.m. PT from Portland — but is by invitation-only for about 50 astronomers and serious eclipse chasers. You still have a chance to get onboard: The airline is holding a contest for two seats on the flight.

Even if you're not on their list and don't win the contest, you may not be completely out of luck.

Some commercial flights will, by coincidence, be flying along the eclipse path. For example, Alaska Airlines Flight 3382 takes off from Portland at 9:15 a.m. PT, with a scheduled arrival in Kansas City at 2:49 p.m. CT, and still has seats available.

Two Southwest Airlines flights are also good candidates to catch an extended view: Flight 1368 from Portland (9:05 a.m. PT) to St. Louis (2:50 p.m. CT) and Flight 1559 from Nashville (12:50 p.m. CT) to Charleston, S.C. (3:15 p.m. ET). Both have seats available as of July 19, and the Nashville to Charleston flight even showed prices as low as $150.

Although these planes will be flying at speeds over 500 mph, they still won't be as fast as the eclipse: The average speed of the moon's shadow as it crosses the U.S. is nearly 1,700 mph.

Of course, delays or wild weather could alter flight times and paths. North-to-south flights could also cross the path of the eclipse, but only for a few seconds.

If you'd rather take to the seas than the skies, eclipse cruises are another option, but they'll be subject to the same variabilities of weather as everyone else down here on Earth.

Contributing: Emily Bohatch, USA TODAY

Great American Eclipse

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