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It's Away! Cargo Jet That Landed At Wrong Airport Takes Off

Grounded: The Boeing 747 Dreamlifter that mistakenly landed Wednesday at Jabara airport in Wichita, Kan.
Jaime Green
Grounded: The Boeing 747 Dreamlifter that mistakenly landed Wednesday at Jabara airport in Wichita, Kan.

Update at 2:17 p.m. ET. In The Air:

Moments ago a massive Boeing 747 "Dreamlifter" cargo jet that mistakenly landed at a small municipal airport late Wednesday took off with a roar from an airfield with a runway much shorter than a jet that size usually uses.

We were watching an NBC News webcast as the big jet took off.

According to the Wichita Eagle, "crews took fuel off the airplane to lighten its load, sources say, and with [a] light cargo load and current wind conditions, the plane [was] capable of taking off."

So the drama, which we described earlier, would seem to be over.

Our original post — "Taking Off Will Be Tricky After Jet Lands At Wrong Airport" — and earlier updates follow:

Before we all take our daily dose of "serious" news, there's this:

A Boeing Co. 747 Dreamlifter cargo jet landed at the wrong airfield in Wichita, Kan., on Wednesday night and is now sitting on a runway that's far shorter than those typically needed for takeoff.

It seems that the jet took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and was supposed to land at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita. Dreamlifters are used by Boeing to haul parts for its aircraft.

But instead of touching down at McConnell, the jet landed at Colonel James Jabara Airport, a small municipal airfield about 10 miles from the Air Force base.

Wichita's KWCH-TV says a recording of the conversation between the pilots and controllers shows the jet was cleared to land at McConnell. But minutes later, one of the pilots can be heard saying, "Ahh .... we just landed at the other airport."

Fortunately, according to the city's official Twitter page, "no one [was] injured, no property damage."

But here's the problem:

"A Dreamlifter is supposed to need a runway 9,199 feet long to take off at maximum takeoff weight, and 7,000 feet to land at maximum landing weight," KWCH reports. "The runway length at Jabara is 6,101 feet."

The station says it's been told by emergency dispatchers that equipment is being brought to the scene to turn the Dreamlifter around and that "Boeing hopes to fly the plane out of Jabara." Presumably it would be emptied of any cargo to make liftoff easier.

We'll watch for news of how the problem is solved.

Update at 2 p.m. ET. Webcast:

NBC News is streaming a live feed from the airport. It looks like the pilots may be testing the engines.

Update at 1 p.m. ET. Takeoff Attempt Delayed:

Wichita's KAKE-TV now says "the Dreamlifter was scheduled to take off around noon [1 p.m. ET], but that will likely be delayed. No new time has been given."

Update at 7:45 a.m. ET: Kansas City's 41ActionNews reports the jet has been "turned 180 degrees ... will take off around noon [local time]."

Meanwhile, though we doubt Boeing could tow the jet the from Jabara over to McConnell, we've pulled together a Google Map and driving directions. Be aware, Boeing, "this route has tolls." Bring some change.

1. Head south on N Webb Rd toward E 34th St N 4.7 mi

2. Turn right onto E Kellogg Ave 0.1 mi

3. Take the ramp to I-35 S 0.5 mi

4. Keep right at the fork, follow signs for I-35 S/Wellington/Oklahoma City and merge onto I-35 S 4.7 mi

5. Take exit 45 toward KS-15 0.5 mi

6. Merge onto Turnpike Dr 0.2 mi

7. Turn left onto KS-15 S/Southeast Blvd 0.2 mi

8. Turn left onto E MacArthur Rd 0.8 mi

9. Turn left. Destination will be on the right

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.