After a late-night diversion from New Hampshire airspace to the Albany International Airport, my Aunt Sandi landed safely around 1am in Manchester, N.H.

Her luggage did not.

Evidently, the 5-hour layover in Charlotte, N.C., just wasn’t long enough to place the Samson-right. Originally scheduled to land in Manchester at 11:16pm, the American Airlines jet circled the skies of New Hampshire while its pilots searched for the airport through sketchy fog.

Unable to locate the airport and low on fuel, the flight re-routed to Albany International where it refueled and returned to Manchester after midnight.

They should switch to the same headlights used by Southwest jets, which landed without incident at the same time my aunt’s flight was scheduled. Evidently one of the Southwest pilots texted the American Airlines pilots with directions to the Manchester airfield, because around 1am the flight and its dizzy passengers landed.

The luggage, however, was either in New York or North Carolina. Or floating in the Atlantic. It wasn’t clear, but the lone suitcase was dropped off the next afternoon.

If this were Spirit Airlines, every employee would be celebrating a gold medal day. With your boarding pass Spirit’s staff should also hand a Magic 8 Ball for decoding their endless re-schedules and cancellations.

“Is this flight even going to make as far as the boarding gate?”

“My sources say no.”

If someone offers you a Spirit boarding pass or a Trailways bus pass, snatch that bus pass like it’s the last potato chip in a roomful of drunk Pats fans.

Considering my experiences with airlines, it’s a wonder I or any other family member ever flies. Here’s a partial list of my airline mis-adventures:

  ENGINE EXPLOSION – I was seated near the wing when an engine explosion disrupted my uncomfortable gaze at clouds that looked like wrecked planes. The sudden boom and flash of flame was enough to seize my attention there at 30,000 feet. Jets can fly and land with just one engine but I’ve always preferred my jets to have all engines functioning when I’m 6 miles north of Earth.

The boom woke the pilot.

“Attention ladies and gentlemen, we have a little problem with one of our engines, so we’re going to divert over to Washington Dulles Airport and switch planes. Nothing to worry about. Flight attendants, meet me in the bunker.”

Comforting words, but during the plane’s final approach, I couldn’t help but notice a battalion of fire trucks, ambulances and other emergency rigs careening down the runway to greet us when/if we landed.

We did land just fine, but viewing all those rescue personnel preparing for the worst – and being part of that worst – was as unsettling as the fireworks display in engine 2.

  SPEAKING of FIRE – During one of my childhood summer visits to Aunt Sandi and Uncle Nelson in Mississippi, I found a Bic lighter wherever it is rednecks discard lighters they can’t figure out. Back then such lighters had little metal gears that controlled the height of the flame. Which is handy when you’re trying to ignite a wasp’s nest higher than the standard firecracker setting would reach.

Meanwhile, smoking in planes was perfectly acceptable in the 1970s. On my return flight, the middle-age woman in the seat beside me hoisted a cigarette to her lips. Always the Cub Scout, I immediately offered her a light which she accepted.

Forgetting that I had set the lighter to its highest setting – an 8-inch flame – I thrust the lighter toward the cigarette and flicked. I lost my lighter almost as fast as the woman lost her eyebrows. Delta has since updated its policies regarding smoking and children with flamethrowers.

  AMMUNITION such as a playing cards-size box of shotgun deer slugs should never be packed in carry-on luggage in place of a real deck of playing cards. Logan Airport’s TSA officers and state troopers really don’t dig it when you do stuff like that. In my wife’s defense, the two items are of similar size and weight. I explained exactly that to the law enforcement folks who agreed that a hijacking with an arsenal of just five deer slugs wasn’t in the cards. We were not detained, which I appreciate since South Carolina is better with us in it. Though someone in TSA owes me some slugs.

SWISS ARMY KNIVES do a lot of things. One thing they don’t do is hide well in shaving kits. Earlier this summer I was shuffling through security at Manchester Airport for a flight to Orlando. A very serious looking TSA agent asked, “Do you have anything sharp?”

“Not a thing, not even my wit,” I replied wittily.

He held up the Swiss army knife I keep in my shaving kit because wine just can’t uncork itself.

“What about this?” he grilled.

“Ahh, yes, the Swiss army knife I forgot to tell you about. My bad. Seeing as it’s about to be confiscated, how about we set it aside and I pick it up in a few days when I return from Florida?”

He replied something along the lines of, This is an airport, not a pawn shop.

Evidently, this sort of utility-weapon was seized regularly and I was permitted to fly. Which is nice, but someone owes me an authentic Swiss army knife made in Taiwan.