A giant Boeing 747 jet that was used to fly around huge manufacturing plane parts was briefly trapped at a tiny Kansas airport after the plane mistakenly was landed there among obvious confusion by the pilots aboard.
The strange landing happened late Wednesday evening at Colonel James Jabara Airport, which was around eight miles north of the jet’s planned endpoint of McConnell Air Force Base. The plane is one of four 747s that has been altered in order to be able to carry large wing and body parts for Boeing’s 787 jumbo jets between plants located all over the world. These planes regularly stop at the McConnell base.
Tiny Jabara airport, located in northeast Wichita, only has one runway that is barely 6,100 feet long and 100 feet wide. It usually takes care of small private planes and business jets. The Boeing 747 which ended up landing there is over 230 feet long with a wingspan at least 210 feet. It normally needs a runway that is at least 9,000 feet long in order to assure there will be enough room for it to take off and land safely. McConnell runways are over 11,000 feet long.
Boeing finally figured out a way to get the enormous jet out of the small airport Thursday morning. It meant bringing in a truck that had been altered in order to turn the plane around 180 degrees. An airport spokesperson said an emergency crew was brought in and executed calculations to confirm that the plane would be able to leave safely.
Police closed down a stretch of highway near the Jabara airport, and also a few surrounding roads as a safety precaution just before the plane took to the air. A small crowd had gathered to watch the jet take off from the runway, which was around 3,000 feet shorter than it needed to be for such a giant plane. Cheers erupted from the people when the aircraft became airborne.
The plane then headed to McConnell in order to release its cargo. It landed safe and sound at the AFB soon afterward about 15 minutes later.
Boeing explained the plane landed safely at Jabara, but did not say why it was set down there instead of its intended destination. The airport spokesperson said there was not any destruction to the tiny airport.
No indication of any mechanical trouble with the Boeing 747 was reported, but air-traffic-control records state that the flight crew sounded confused about its location when the plane landing. The recordings show that the aircraft had been cleared to come down at McConnell AFB and the crew confirmed the clearance back to McConnell control.
After they had landed the jet, the crew wanted instructions from the tower about taxiing. That was when they were informed the jumbo had not come in at the Air Force base.
The crew of the Boeing 747 then radioed back that they were at the Jabara airport.
It is not certain if the incorrect landing ever posed a noteworthy risk to smaller aircraft or even the airport itself. Jabara does not usually have much air traffic and the airport does not even have its own tower. The National Transportation Safety Board was accumulating information about the 747′s landing.
The four altered Boeing 747s, which are nicknamed “Dream Lifters”, are crucial elements in Boeing’s construction of the 787. That aircraft is assembled at factories in the states of South Carolina and Washington. It is made from pieces manufactured at sites in Italy, Japan, and all over the United States. Boeing has been straining to keep up production of the 787 in order to meet the demand. It makes about ten a month now. The Dream Lifters are what keeps Boeing able to produce what they do.
No matter, this particular Boeing 747 jumbo jet found itself flying in Kansas but landing somewhere it did not want to be.
By Kimberly Ruble