A Boeing 747 Dreamlifter reached its final destination of McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita Thursday afternoon after it landed at the wrong airport late Wednesday. The Dreamlifter, which has an expanded fuselage to accommodate large aircraft parts, was supposed to land on McConnell’s 12,000-foot runway to pick up parts at Spirit Aerosystems. Instead, the crew landed on the 6,101×100-foot runway at Jabara Airport, about nine miles north of the base. It’s not clear why the crew picked the wrong field but McConnell spokesman Stefan Bocchino told the Wichita Eagle the crew just picked the wrong runway. “From what I understand, the guy just landed and had no clue where he was landing. Hear the LiveATC recording of the conversation between the McConnell tower and the crew here (MP3).
Most of the fuel has been offloaded from the aircraft to lighten it for takeoff. A tug had to be driven to the airport to turn the 747 around. A fresh crew has been brought in from New York to do the ferry flight to McConnell. Boeing contracts with Atlas Air in New York to operate the specialized aircraft. There are four Dreamlifters in operation and they are used to transport the forward fuselage section of the Boeing 787 built by Spirit to the final assembly plant at Paine Field north of Seattle. The Dreamlifters use the capacious Air Force base by special permit. The unusual situation forced closure of Jabara Airport and engineers will be brought in to ensure the Dreamlifter didn’t damage the runway. The big plane was clearly visible from an adjacent road and drew a long line of onlookers.