July 16

Our Prestwick hotel remains trapped in WWII Scotland under rationing. A nuanced expression of Scottish frugality, the hot water tap is so tightly screwed that one must commit both hands to liberate warmth. You had better travel with a bar of soap and shampoo. But it’s not the five-star hotels I remember. It’s these wonderful places. Breakfast choices included various parts of a pig, baked beans, stewed tomatoes and of course, porridge.

The weather challenge today may be icing. Satellite images suggest scattered clouds for most of the trip with a bit of rain and mist in Reykjavik. We like the summer temperatures. With 55-59 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface of the sea, we expect above-freezing temperatures at our cruising altitude. Having achieved consensus among the pilots that the risk of icing is manageable, we head for the airport.

Fuel in Prestwick is bloody expensive. The chap assigned to clear our account had the most fascinating, and unintelligible, brogue of any airport staff. He could star in a sequel to the famous SNL Scottish ATC skit still available on YouTube. The comedy began when I asked to pay over four thousand pounds in cash derived from air show retail sales, mostly t-shirts. The denominations were twenties, tens and fives. He admitted to never having seen so much cash before. It builds confidence when your air traffic controller makes an admission suggesting he never dealt drugs. Twice he broke away from counting the stacks of bills to land a C-17, then a P-8.

We have now flown over Scotland on our way to Iceland. The crew has donned “Gumby” survival suits. Happy Halloween from a plane-full of big pumpkins.

The vast expanse of the North Atlantic shares its haunting beauty through gaps in the clouds. Significant intervals separate call-in points with no assurance of a response. We layer to keep warm, though 28 degrees in the cockpit exceeds by ten the temperature endured in the American crossing back in May. A cloud-deck below creates a plateau from which the towering cumulus form what appear to be snow-capped mountains. We yawn, not because we are tired, but because at 10,000 feet the air thins. Excuse me as we descend into Reykjavik.

John Sessions