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Big cargo plane takes off from small Kansas airport without incident

November 21, 2013|By Michael Muskal

How do you get a large cargo airplane out of a small airport with a short runway in Kansas? Carefully, very carefully.

A jumbo 747 that mistakenly landed at Col. James Jabara Airport in Wichita safely took off on Thursday afternoon and headed for its original destination, an Air Force base about eight miles away,  McConnell Air Force Base.

When fully loaded, a plane that size needs a runway of more than 9,200 feet to take off safely. The Jabara runway is about 6,100 feet.

But officials had said they weren’t worried because the plane was lighter, having used up much of its fuel in the Wednesday flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport. Televised images show the plane being moved around the runway then captured its flawless liftoff.

The plane is owned by Boeing and operated by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, a New York-based cargo-hauler.

 “We are working with Atlas Air to determine the circumstances,” Boeing said in a written statement.

According to, a website that monitors air traffic communications, the pilot sounded confused. “We just landed at the other airport,” the pilot tells controllers shortly after the landing.

Once the pilot says they're at the wrong airport, two different controllers jump in to confirm that the plane is safe.

The pilot and controllers then go back and forth trying to figure out at which airport he landed amid some confusion about east versus west and north versus south.


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