WICHITA, Kan. — Moments after touching down, the pilot of a cargo-hauling jumbo jet seemed confused in his exchanges with air traffic controllers who had guided his Boeing 747 toward a Kansas Air Force base.
When puzzled controllers told the pilot that he was nine miles north of his intended destination, he made an unusual admission: “Uh, yes sir, we just landed at the other airport.”
His calm, understated response belied the danger of the situation: A mammoth aircraft had just landed on the wrong stretch of concrete, miles from its planned path, in the dark. The runway just happened to be long enough.
As he tried to sort out the situation over the radio, the pilot could be heard mixing up east and west in his notes, acknowledging he could not read his own handwriting and getting distracted from the conversation by “looking at something else.”
The 747, flown by a two-person crew with no passengers, intended to touch down late Wednesday at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, where it was supposed to deliver parts for Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner to a nearby company that makes large sections of the next-generation jet. Instead, the cargo plane landed to the north, at the smaller Col. James Jabara Airport.
The jet took off again Thursday and within minutes landed at its original destination.
Boeing Co. owns the plane involved in the mistaken landing, but it’s operated by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, a New York-based company that provides crews or planes to companies. An Atlas Air spokeswoman declined to answer questions and referred inquiries to Boeing.
Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the company would be consulting with Atlas to “find out exactly what happened so that it doesn’t happen again.”