No one seems to be quite sure why it happened, but last night a Boeing 747 Dreamlifter cargo plane bound for McConnell Air Force Base landed at a different, much smaller airport roughly 11 miles away. Rather than reaching its intended destination, the huge plane instead touched down at Jabara Airport, a facility so small that it doesn't even have a control tower on the premises. "From what I understand, the guy just landed and had no clue where he was landing," McConnell spokesperson Stefan Bocchino told The Wichita Eagle. The 747 Dreamlifter often transports large parts (wings, etc.) for the 787 Dreamliner, which should offer some sense of scale for those unfamiliar with the aircraft.
The situation presented a late night challenge for Boeing and FAA officials: to successfully take off again, the Dreamlifter would need to use a runway much shorter than is typically required for the huge plane. According to CNN, the Dreamlifter usually needs 9,199 feet of runway when it's filled with cargo. Instead, Jabara gives Boeing just 6,101 feet to work with. But apparently the company is willing to give it a shot.
Last night, KWCH News reported that a tug (used to help turn a plane in the opposite direction) was on the scene. And this morning, the station says that the Boeing 747 Dreamlifter will take off around noon, once again headed for McConnell Air Force Base. It's currently unclear whether some or all of the plane's cargo was offloaded to ensure a safe takeoff.
Update: Boeing has confirmed that the 747 Dreamlifter will be taking off this afternoon. The company also says that it will "unload, as planned," suggesting that it wasn't necessary to rid the plane of its cargo for a safe departure.
Boeing confirms Dreamlifter to leave #Jabara "later today" for short flight to McConnell AFB, where it will "unload, as planned."— Jon Ostrower (@jonostrower) November 21, 2013
Update 2: The Boeing 747 Dreamlifter made a successful takeoff this afternoon from Jabara Airport.