United: If you have time to spare, travel by air

Ely Echo Editorial by Nick Wognum

Ely Echo Editorial Un“ited: If you have time
to spare, travel by air

by Nick Wognum
Flying to Raleigh, North Carolina for an Army educational tour was an adventure in itself.
Staff Sgt. Cody Williams picked me up in Ely Tuesday morning. We had time to talk about recruiting and life on our trip to the Duluth airport. Me thinks was the most uneventful part of the whole trip.

The first hint of trouble was finding my flight out of Duluth was going to be delayed by
30 minutes. That shrunk my layover in Chicago from one hour to half that. Of course, the 30 minute delay turned into 45 minutes.
The flight attendants asked that passengers remain seated if they didn’t have a connecting
flight. That helped. I didn’t leap over chairs getting from one gate to another in O’Hare but I made it to the
other gate with 10 minutes to spare. Nope. Boarding closed, I missed my flight. No one at
the counter for me to talk to or ask questions. And then a flight attendant opened the
locked door. “Are you supposed to be on this
light?”
Yes, ma’am.
We taxied to the runway and were fourth in line to take off. And then the pilot hung a left.
“We’ve had a warning light come on and we’re going to have it checked out.”
This was at 2 p.m. After numerous delay extensions (I counted nine), the flight was cancelled at 7:15 p.m.
There was talk of no rooms available in the city due to conventions and someone said the
airport would be setting up cots in one of the concourses. There was also, according to my phone, another flight to Raleigh at 9:45 p.m. A phone call to my Army contact started the ball rolling. Staff Sgt. Brock Messamore told
me on the phone he would call SATO and see what they could do.
I’m stuck in Chicago and the Army is calling the SATO office in Ely to help me out. Sure enough, 15 minutes later Brock called to give me the good news, Ely had come through for me.
The bad news, that flight was already delayed by nearly two hours. I joined the thousands of people waiting for a flight that may or may not take off. There were weather issues across the Midwest and that made for some
unhappy campers at the airport.
But I had a flight and all I had to do was wait. Luckily I had a library book to read and headphones to drown out the complaining.
The delays kept coming. I just kept texting Brock. 11:40. 11:55. 12:05.
Finally our flight crew arrived and the gate attendant announced this plane was going to
board. People actually cheered.
I found my seat and plunked down ready to get some shut eye. I didn’t have my seat belt on for five minutes when the captain’s voice came over the intercom.
“This plane has a mechanical problem. The good news is there’s another plane we can
board,” she said.
With plenty of groaning and “can you believe it happened again” we got off the plane
and walked back from one terminal to another, down the escalator, under the tarmac, up the escalator and back to the terminal we started in nearly 12 hours ago.
The final delay was announced. Leave at 1:15 a.m. Arrive at 4:12 a.m.
I sat down between the same two guys, neither one was much for conversations.
Headphones back on and I woke up when we landed. It was 3:50 a.m. Brock and the driver,
Chris Farley (yes, that’s his real name), got me to the hotel in Fayetteville. I hit the bed at 6 a.m.
Breakfast was at 7 a.m.
I’m not sure how the trip home will be but there was a funny situation today at Fort Bragg.
The tour has been fantastic, educational and something I will never forget. But at the end of the day Thursday we were scheduled to watch members of the 82nd Airborne jump out of a plane and land in the field in front of us. We drove a half hour into the countryside and set up to watch the show.
“The flight has been cancelled. The pilot reports mechanical issues.”
I wasn’t surprised. Of course when the second flight was also cancelled, I was beginning to think it was my luck around airplanes.
I guess I’ll find out Friday.