Plane taking off at the airport likerErgun/getttyimages
LESSON LEARNED: Despite my best efforts, weather and mechanical problems kept me grounded at the airport this month — with the grim reminder that we don't have much control when flying.

Airport horrors and lessons learned

Just like in farming, air travel can be thwarted by weather and mechanical issues.

As I'm writing this, I'm sitting in my office in Lincoln, Neb. I would rather be writing an article on a new combine from a coffee shop or hotel room in Regina, Saskatchewan, but yours truly hasn't had the best luck with air travel lately, and unforeseen circumstances have kept me grounded in the U.S.

To recap an airline horror story, last week I was scheduled to visit the Great White North to cover a combine launch; however, upon my arrival at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, I found a line of would-be fellow passengers in the bag check area, with no representative from the airline in sight. I was soon notified (from passengers, not by email or text alert) that our flight to Toronto (where I would connect to another flight to Regina) had been canceled.

After consulting with a travel agent, and about a half-hour's worth of heightened heart rate, the agent told me I was rebooked. I'd have an additional connecting flight, and would arrive in Saskatchewan an hour later, but I'd get there just the same.

So, after going through TSA and checking in at the gate, I breathed a huge sigh of relief — quickly disrupted when I realized my first layover in Denver would be a mere 37 minutes. It was a tight window, but the gates weren't too far apart. It was manageable — until the arrival of our plane to Denver was delayed, delayed again and then again.

The plane didn't get off the ground until at least an hour late, and it soon became clear I would not be making it too Saskatchewan that night. So, I checked with an airline representative at the gate for an alternative option (at this point, anything that would get me to Regina by early afternoon would suffice), who informed me there was no such option.

Defeated, I asked if I could still collect my luggage; they were still unloading the plane from the arriving flight, after all. Fortunately, I was able to leave the airport with all of my luggage — something of a bright spot in this story. However, I drove home with a grim reminder that in spite of my planning and buying a ticket a month in advance, and then attempting to salvage the situation by rebooking with another flight, the situation was almost entirely out of my control.

It isn't all that different from the challenges farmers might face in a given cropping season. Sure, you could plan ahead for a number of different scenarios (and in the future, book a flight with a different airline). You can always adjust your strategy midseason. I'm sure there are growers out there that had to adjust their nitrogen plan, or dealt with wet weather and had to make a sidedress or fertigation application later than planned. Or, maybe your crop was ravaged by hail and you had to replant. Ultimately, there's no guarantee that Mother Nature, mechanical issues or unforeseen human error won't keep you grounded.

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