Oops! Giant plane lands at tiny airport

A United States Air Force C-17 cargo plane accidentally landed at Peter O. Knight airport, a small civil aviation field with a runway 3405 feet long, instead of 11,000 feet at nearby McDill Air Force Base.  Because the C-17 is designed for short field operations, it was able to take off (with a different crew) a few hours later and head home to McDill. In this screen grab, you can see the giant pplane on the righ end of the runway, and how little concrete is available for takeoff.

KFLA-TV reports:

It is actually not that uncommon for airplanes, even commercial airliners, to land at the wrong airport. The most embarrassing such instance happened in 1959, when a United Airlines DC-6B, bound for Omaha's Eppley Field, instead landed at Council Bluffs Airport, across the Missouri River from Omaha. The Council Bluffs Airport official history recounts:

Early in the morning of December 28, 1959, the Council Bluffs Airport received an unexpected visitor. Captain J.E. Hicks of San Francisco, California, pilot of United Airlines D.C. 6B scheduled for Omaha, inadvertently set the plane down prematurely. Approaching the Omaha airport on instruments from the South amid sleet, snow and fog, Captain Hicks was surprised to find his ship landing on the soft turf of the Council Bluffs facility. The wheels of the aircraft sank into the soil some six to eight inches deep. As the plane came to rest on the boggy ground, forty-five passengers were stranded, unable to leave the huge airplane. Fire Company 5, South side Council Bluffs, responded assisting them in unloading by way of ladders. Seven Council Bluffs taxicabs took the eleven Lincoln, Nebraska passengers to Omaha hotels and the 28 Omaha passengers to their homes. The plane remained in the mud for forty hours. The airport was closed for repairs. Passengers were not injured and there was no damage to the plane, only the airline's prestige.

I remember at the time reading that the airplane could not take off from the airport, and had to be taken apart and hauled away. But I have not been able to confirm this in a cursory online search. Not such a big problem for a C-17:

The C-17 is designed to operate from runways as short as 3,500 ft (1,064 m) and as narrow as 90 ft (27 m). In addition, the C-17 can operate from unpaved, unimproved runways (although with greater chance of damage to the aircraft).  The thrust reversers can be used to back the aircraft and reverse direction on narrow taxiways using a three- (or more) point turn.

If you watch the video, you will see the bird lifted off with pavement to spare. Offloading fuel and lightening the craft other ways, made 3405 no trick at all. Face it. The United States Air Force is awesome, and while fighter pilots get the glamour, Airlift Command gets the job done. In this case, with a hiccup.

The inflight amenities on a C-17 may not compare to an A-380, but it can get equipment and troops in and out of a lot of places you wouldn't think it could. The A 380 is limited to specially equipped major world airports.

Hat tip: iOwnTheWorld and Andrea Shea King