A Calgary-based photographer experienced a “once in a lifetime” opportunity when he viewed the beauty of the aurora borealis from 36,000 feet up in the air.

Neil Zeller was invited to photograph nature’s dazzling light show from the cockpit of an Air North Boeing 737 travelling high above the Arctic Circle last week. The nearly four-hour Aurora 360 flight had no set destination other than to explore the nighttime sky in search of the northern lights.

The professional photographer said he was honoured to be asked to take photos of the lights during the tour.

“The excitement was beyond real,” he gushed. “An opportunity like that comes around only once in a lifetime obviously. As the photographer on the flight, I was responsible for capturing the images that were going to be seen around the world.”

Believed to be the first flight of its kind in North America, the excursion was the product of a joint effort between Air North, Tourism Yukon and the Yukon Astronomical Society, that came up with the idea.

"This was the ultimate aurora-hunting tour," Robin Anderson, Tourism Yukon's global marketing manager, told CTV Calgary. "We had a plane essentially at our disposal and pilots armed with amazing information from the Yukon Astronomical Society that they had a flight path that was designed specifically to maximize the aurora viewing experience.”

Zeller joined 90 other passengers from 17 different countries in Whitehorse, Yukon for the voyage. The flight took off just after midnight on Nov. 25. Nine minutes later, the passengers were treated to a glimpse of the colourful display right outside their seat windows.

“The northern lights, they can be fairly dim, but when you’re at 36,000 feet in a 737, it’s pretty easy to go find them,” Zeller said.

Thanks to keen interest and the first flight’s success, Air North officials have announced plans for another Aurora 360 flight early in 2018.

“The northern lights are a bucket list for many, but when you factor in from 36,000 feet from the window of an airplane, it’s a bucket list times ten,” Zeller said.

With a report from CTV Calgary’s Jaclyn Brown

Air North's Aurora 360 Flight to the Lights, Nov 25, 2017 from Neil Zeller on Vimeo.