June 30


I’m on the planning committee helping line up vendors for the tradeshow floor at the joint Midwestern/Western ITE District Annual Meeting being held right now in Rapid City, South Dakota (my co-chair Laurie Casper did an amazing job and we exceeded our goal of 40 vendors!).

Here’s the story of why I’m not in Rapid City right now…

My flight was delayed twice due to the storms Saturday night.  We took off at about 9 p.m.  Flight goes smoothly and we’re making our approach to Rapid City when the pilot comes on and says, “the runway in Rapid City is too short for us to land.  Sorry for the inconvenience but we need to turn around and go back to Minneapolis.”  What – how do they schedule the wrong size plane?!?

A little bit later he comes back on the intercom and explains we have problems with the hydraulics in the landing gear.  The runway in Rapid City isn’t long enough for our EMERGENCY LANDING.

They practice this all the time in the simulator so we have nothing to be alarmed about.  Huh.

And by the way there will be fire engines on the runway with their lights on surrounding us.  There’s a slight chance the landing gear will overheat and start on fire because they don’t have hydraulics in the braking system to help us.  Okayyy.

The good news is they have a plane ready in the gate next to where they’ll tow us into so we can all turn around and go back to Rapid City. That’s exciting – go from an emergency landing to immediately jump on a different plane.

The pilot did a great job with a very smooth landing.  All’s good.  But it turns out Rapid City closes their airport at 11 p.m.  and it’s 11:30 here.  We can’t make it in time (they’re an hour earlier than us), so they tell us to grab a blanket/pillow and our flight will take off at 5:45 a.m.

I try to make a rational decision on what to do.  In this kind of situation I try to disengage from all of the history/emotion and focus on the present situation.  The show will go on without me and I have a small role to play – grabbing a conference center employee if there’s a problem with a vendor booth.  And I’ll be heavily sleep deprived, making me nearly worthless.

I was also flying out on Tuesday because of other commitments, I wasn’t going to be much of a conference attendee.  Of course I have friends I was looking forward to seeing, but I’ll see them again.  I was also excited to see Mount Rushmore, but I should take my kids to see that.

I decided this fiasco was a sign from God – I wasn’t meant to go to Rapid City.  Delta gave me a refund on the flight and I cabbed it home.  The Holiday Inn also refunded my money.  Now I’m well rested and working on this blog post.  A little less knowledgeable for not sitting through today’s presentations.  Hopefully the good presentations are being recorded so I can watch them later.

p.s.  I’m disappointed none of my cell phone photos of the fire engines turned out from my aisle seat.

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Mike Spack

My mission is to help traffic engineers, transportation planners, and other transportation professionals improve our world.

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