Massive Boeing Dreamlifter lands at wrong Kansas airport with smaller runway

  • Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 7:58 a.m., Updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013 12:36 p.m.
A Boeing 747 LCF Dreamlifter sits on the runway after accidentally landing at Jabara airport in Wichita, Kansas Wednesday night Nov. 20, 2013 thinking it was landing at McConnell Air Force Base. (AP Photo/Wichita Eagle, Jaime)

WICHITA, Kan. — A Boeing 747 jumbo jet mistakenly landed at a small Kansas airport not far from the Air Force base where it was supposed to land to deliver parts for the company’s famed new 787 Dreamliner.

The 747 landed Wednesday evening at Col. James Jabara Airport, about 8 miles north of its intended target, the McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita. Jabara’s runway is just 6,101 feet long, much shorter than is ideal for an aircraft of that size.

Roger Xanders, chief of the Wichita Airport Authority’s police and fire department, told KMBC-TV that nonetheless the plane should be able to take off around noon Thursday. The plane, operated by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, has been turned around by a tug to prepare for departure, said Brad Christopher of the Wichita Airport Authority.

“We’ve been in contact with Atlas company headquarters in New York. They’ve assured us they’ve run all the engineering calculation and performance and the aircraft is very safe for a normal departure at its current weight and conditions here,” Christopher said.

Atlas Air spokeswoman Bonnie Rodney did not immediately return early Thursday calls and an email from The Associated Press seeking comment. Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said he could not immediately provide any information on how or why the jumbo jet landed at Jabara.

The two-person crew was not injured and the airplane and airport property were not damaged, Christopher said.

The modified 747, one of a fleet of four that hauls parts around the world for the production of the Dreamliner, was bound for McConnell because it is adjacent to Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, Birtel said. Spirit makes the forward section or nose area of the Dreamliner’s fuselage.

These jets, which the company refers to as Dreamlifters, are crucial to the Dreamliner’s construction. Boeing is using a global network of suppliers to develop and build most of the new plane’s parts in locations as far away as Germany, Japan and Sweden. Boeing says the Dreamlifter cuts delivery time down to one day from as many as 30 days.

The final aircraft is assembled at plants outside Seattle and in North Charleston, S.C.

It is not the first incident of a large aircraft landing at an airport ill equipped to accommodate a plane of that size.

In July last year, a cargo plane bound for MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Fla., landed without incident at the small Peter O. Knight Airport nearby. An investigation blamed confusion identifying airports in the area and base officials introduced an updated landing procedure to mitigate future problems.

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