November 21, 2013
This Boeing 747 Dreamlifter is not supposed to be at Jabara Airport, but
there it is. I'd be joining a throng of people to watch it leave.
Waiting in the relative warmth of the WATC hangar at the end of the
Jabara runway, we've got plenty of spectators, emergency equipment, and the
local television news camera person is at the ready. Let's do this
Plenty of room. The flight crew that was brought in to handle the
takeoff (is it obvious that the same crew that landed the plane would not be
onboard?) did a nice short-field takeoff with lots of runway to spare.
They pulled the gear-up lever pretty quickly.
Wichita Eagle, November 21, 2013 -
Capital residents came out in droves on a cold and windy Thursday to honk
their horns and cheer as a plane took off.
But not just any old
They were there at Jabara Airport, near 37th and North Webb
Road, to watch as a wayward Dreamlifter managed to take off at about 1:15
p.m. on a short runway after mistakenly landing there Wednesday night.
The massive cargo plane landed about nine minutes later and nine miles
to the south at McConnell Air Force Base – where it was suppose to have been
in the first place.
Travis Clark, a former sailor aboard the Navy
aircraft carrier U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, was among those who waited and
watched as the modified Boeing 747 left Jabara.
“I thought it was
amazing that a plane that big could get up enough speed and take off on a
short runway,” he said.
Wichitans braved near-freezing temperatures
much of the morning to see the massive cargo plane that had missed McConnell
Air Force Base on Wednesday night and incorrectly landed nine miles to the
north at Jabara.
Some sat in warm cars, such as Clark, in parking
lots across the street. Others slowly drove past the plane, rolling down
their windows to take pictures.
For a while, about 30 people braved
the weather to line the fence along the south runway, about 100 yards from
where the plane was. One of those was John Cintron, who was dressed in an
orange Chicago Bears sweatshirt and shorts.
“I’m looking forward to
the challenge of seeing this plane take off,” he said. “I’m confident they
can do it.”
The plane’s load was lightened considerably so that it
would be able to take off from a short runway.
The Dreamlifter landed
at about 9:40 p.m. Wednesday at Jabara. It landed safely, and there was no
damage to the plane, Boeing said.
The giant air transport was
supposed to land at McConnell, and taxi over to the adjacent Boeing and
The Dreamlifter typically flies to Wichita to
pick up forward fuselages for assembly of Boeing 787 Dreamliners in Seattle
or South Carolina.
“The tower was in contact with the pilot,”
McConnell spokesman Stefan Bocchino said. “They were the ones who told him
where he landed. From what I understand, the guy just landed and had no clue
where he was landing.”
Radio traffic between McConnell’s tower and
the pilot indicated as much. Moments after the tower cleared the Dreamlifter
to land, the air traffic controller told the pilot: “McConnell is nine miles
south of you.”
Pilot: Yes, sir, we just landed at the other airport.”
Pilot: “Apparently, uh, we, uh have landed at (Beech Factory Airport,
which is between McConnell and Jabara, just north of Kellogg and west of
McConnell: “Verify. You are on the ground at Beech
Pilot: “We think so.”
McConnell: “. . .You are at
McConnell: “Are you able to make
an approach, correction, a departure off the airport and back in the air and
Pilot: “We are working on those details, sir.”
It was soon sorted out that the plane was at Jabara.
length is 6,101 feet – almost half the length of McConnell’s runway. There
were heavy skid marks at the end of the runway where the Dreamlifter stopped
at Jabara, which is near 37th Street North and Webb Road.
contracts with New York-based Atlas Air for pilots to fly the Dreamlifter.
Atlas is bringing in two pilots from New York to the Air Capital to fly the
plane from Jabara to McConnell.
Atlas spokeswoman Bonnie Rodney did
not immediately return a call for comment.
Dreamlifter was expected
to take off about noon. But that was delayed for about an hour, said a city
The flight crew had arrived, but needed to do their
preflight checks before takeoff, said Victor White, director of airports.
Crews took fuel off the airplane to lighten its load, sources say,
and with the light cargo load and current wind conditions, the plane is
capable of taking off.
“They’ve just got enough fuel to make it to
McConnell,” said Paul Spranger with Midwest Corporate Aircraft, the fixed
base operation at Jabara.
Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel said the
Dreamlifter was bound from New York for McConnell, which shares its runway
with Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems. Boeing has a permit to use McConnell’s
The plane had come from Italy with 787 parts on board, said
Boeing spokesman Doug Alter.
Last week, planes had brought in 787
center fuselages and tooling for storage at Boeing Wichita. It’s unclear
whether the plane flew in with similar cargo.
The plane that landed
at Jabara is one of four modified 747s that Boeing uses to ferry parts for
the new Dreamliner’s construction.
The plane has a wing span of
211.5 feet and is more than 235 feet long.
Atlas Air has operated the
Dreamlifters since 2010, taking over the contract from Evergreen
Under the agreement with Atlas, Boeing retains
ownership of the Dreamlifters and pays fuel costs for the 787 transportation
It’s not unusual for pilots who aren’t familiar with Wichita
to mistake Jabara for McConnell, said Steve Stowe, a former chief pilot and
manager of flight operations at Boeing in Wichita. Stowe is now a senior
engineering test pilot for Bombardier Flight Test Center in Wichita.
“It’s happened before in reduced visibility where a pilot on approach to
McConnell mistook Jabara but figured it out pretty quickly,” Stowe said.
The way the runways are aligned and with low visibility, “you can
mistake Jabara for McConnell if your’re not familar with area,” he said.
When he was at Boeing, “we mentioned this issue to visiting pilots in
our Local Area Briefing Guide,” Stowe said.
The runways at McConnell
and Jabara are in close alignment and nearly parallel.
cause a pilot to see Jabara before McConnell, he said.
runway is also parallel but further to the west, Stowe noted.
Dreamlifter pilot landed the wayward plane coming in from the north to the
The National Transportation Safety Board is gathering
information on the incident, a NTSB spokesman said.
Jabara is closed.
“We’re on stand down,” said Shellie Foster,
customer service supervisor Midwest Corporate Aviation.
morning, Foster was seeking permission from the Wichita Airport Authority to
allow small planes to take off from Jabara.
Despite the Dreamlifter
at one end of the runway, “we have plenty of runway for some of our smaller
aircraft,” Foster said.
Airport property was not damaged, said Brad
Christopher of the airport authority early Thursday morning at Jabara.
“Everything looks fine,” he said.
After the Dreamlifter takes off,
however, the authority is bringing in engineers to examine for possible
Meanwhile, a long line of cars and sightseers filled Webb see
the plane. Some people were pulling into the airport to take photos.
R.J. Martin, who used to fly and helped build Denver International Airport,
was at Jabara early Thursday morning taking photos.
interesting. That’s a big jet. That’s a small runway,” he said.
a good thing we don’t have tall buildings. The vertical lift is not that
fast on that plane.”
Lisa Stewart stopped by after taking her husband
“I’m just here to check out the plane and see how big it
is,” she said. “It’s bigger than an airplane. It’s just so amazing.”
One passerby who stopped for photos said, “Who makes a mistake like that? I
understand mistakes. (This one) is so public.”
Green of The Eagle and Associated Press
last edit: 11/21/2013