This past week, sandwiched between “Nuclear Options” in the Senate and the local mugging news, was an interesting story of a 390,000 lbs., 235 foot oops! You may have read this already, so it is old news. A Boeing 747 Dreamlifter, which is a huge modified 747 built to carry some seriously large cargo, landed at the wrong airport. Unfortunately for these guys, the runway where they landed is only 6,101 feet long, and according to their specifications, this beast needs about another 3,000 feet for a normal takeoff with a full load of fuel. The conversation with Air Traffic Control went like this:
Controller: Giant 4241 heavy, confirm you know which airport you are at?
Pilot: Well, we think we have a pretty good pulse.
Controller: Giant 4241 heavy, roger, you…it appears you are at Jabara.
Pilot: Um, say again?
Controller: Giant 4241 heavy, we saw the plane on the radar and it appears you are at Jabara Airport.
Pilot: Say the name of it again? Controller: Jabara. Controller: McConnell is 9 miles south of you. Pilot: Yes sir, we just landed at the other airport. (This transcript of the transmissions between the cockpit and ATC, is not official, and was obtained from the webstory published by a local news source, at ( http://www.wistv.com) My understanding is that they gave it a shot, without the full load of fuel, and got that monster back in the air from the much smaller runway. Still, how does this happen? Humans make mistakes, and in crappy weather, when you’re trying to spot the airport after breaking out of the clouds towards your “approach minimums,” it happens more than you might think. Fortunately, for all involved, nobody was hurt, unless the pride of the aircrew counts. I’m just thankful that it wasn’t me. Since there was once or twice in my active military flying career when the question of fuel, weather, and altitude made the question a very real one. In fact, I once recall asking myself, not whether I was going to bust minimums, but instead, “How FAR are we going to bust the minimums.” Thankfully for me, we broke out of the clouds in perfect alignment for the airport where we wanted to be, right at the minimum altitude as published. In lay terms, that statement means, “THANK YOU GOD! For getting me here safe and in one piece!” ~ Michael S. Pauley
Michael S. Pauley is a Navy brat and an old soldier who served in all three components of the United States Army. Living in Lexington, South Carolina, Michael is now a practicing attorney and member of the United States Naval Institute and the American Legion, Post 154, Tybee Island, Georgia.