In-Flight Journal - DAY 11

After a restful night in San Sebastin, Spain, a beautiful harbor town in Basque country, we set a course for the northwest corner of France.

Arthur's flight plan calls for a direct over-water shot to Quimper. But the flight controllers have a different idea. Perhaps they don't want us flying that far over water (far less than our long over-water run from Libreville, Gabon, to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a few days ago).

In any case, we're routed up the coast of France from Biarritz to Bordeaux to La Rochelle to Nantes to Lorient to Quimper. It takes a bit longer, but with clear weather and at just 5,000 feet, we can see everything. Town after town, harbors and sailboats, bright-green fields dotted with sheep and black-and-white cows. At less than a mile from the ground, we can easily see cars on the roads and even individuals on the beach.

As we approach Quimper, the weather gets thicker and thicker. No storms like yesterday in Spain, but thickening ground cover.

Arthur shoots an ILS (instrument landing system) approach through the goo. He's matching our position to crossed needles on a panel instrument: the vertical one for heading, the horizontal one for glide slope. If we don't see the runway by the time we descend to 200 feet above the ground, we'll have to wave off.

'At 200 feet, there ain't much time to fool around,' Arthur says. I'm straining to see the runway, and I finally spot it just off to the left about a mile ahead.

After a normal landing, we taxi to our parking spot and secure the plane. We take a cab to our hotel in town, then go for a walk. We have a long, relaxing dinner and head back to the hotel. Arthur turns in. I have a good Internet connection here, so I stay up until 2 a.m. e-mailing photos to my Monitor masters in Boston.

One other interesting occurrence today: As Arthur was filing our flight plan this morning, I was checking e-mails from under the wing of the Cessna using my laptop computer and satellite phone. Up popped Cameron in the form of an "instant message." Cam worked at the Monitor as an intern several summers back, and now he's working in Australia.

So with half a world between us, we chatted for a while through cyberspace. Pretty cool.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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