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How a Professional Pilot Could Possibly Land a Giant Plane at the Wrong Airport

The story of two pilots landing a Boeing 747 at the wrong airport last week drew a lot of rolled eyes, more than a little laughter and serious questions about how on earth two experienced pilots could so make such a colossal error. ( More...

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rj sullivan 3
Im sure once the pilots realized their error of landing at the wrong airport, one of them was one their phone calling a union rep, possibly a lawyer. THey are going to need BOTH! LOL
sparkie624 3
Actually they are going to need an updated Resume.. They could add proficiency at landing a heavy 747 on a short thin runway....
rj sullivan 1
HA HA excellent point! I forgot to think that. Can only thumbs up once. You know what they say in advertising 101. Even if its bad publicity it is STILL free advertising! LOL.
Or may be, add it to 747 specs ! For wider application or benefit.
A great selling point over many of its competitors suitable for short runways !
Musketeer1 3
This is the 3rd article now I've seen without actively looking that is just full of excuses and justification. They both need to be spanked (fired and 709'd). This is not OK of a professional crew; it just isn't no matter how you dice it.
preacher1 7
I too, am ready for folks to give it a rest. The author can give it lip service if he wants, BUT, that does not change the fact that 2 ATP's made a major blunder, and will pay for it in some measure. Thee is no forgiving as this is an unforgiving career field. You do it right or suffer the consequences. Do we make mistakes??? Sure we do, but the consequences are much higher than in GA, if those mistakes come to light.
Bill Babis 2
Agreed. As part of planning your job is to get familiar with the destination. If you don't do it, stick with the approach especially at night. 'nuff said!
How does his premature descent on an instrument approach get by 2 ATC facilities. That would have at least cued me to ask the pilot if he has the correct runway insight. 8 miles from the destination and B744 is at 500' would cause some concern for me.
PhotoFinish 1
I'd love to get to see the flight data in the last minutes of flight. Flightaware doesn't seem to show the lowest altitudes of approaches since the Asiana 214 crash.

Nit sure if it's intentional. If so, whether if FAA us withholding some data, or whether FA no linger provides that data due to internal decision or external (federal) request.

That said, I've imagined that the pilots may have been convinced that the AAO was McConnell. If so, then it'll come at them a bit sooner than expected.

So, with the skills many expect these pilots would have, I could imagine that they adjusted their descent rate and went diwn quickly. (Maybe too quickly for ATC to even notice, unless an early descent warning alarmed).

I could see them dropping quickly to not "overshoot" their runway. (Maybe figuring they were coming in high from being tired. It was late at night afterall.)

It would be good to know their actual flight path. Then we would have a better sense of the flow of the incident.
preacher1 1
If they were on instrument for IAB they would have been higher. Seeing and calling the field, they probably had to make a real quick drop to get down. As you say, that would probably let ATC off the hook. They must have kissed the marks landing, on account of the skid marks at the end. Had they not and been able to stop as they did, they would be picking up scrap metal across the highway. Let's just write it all off as a bad dream and blame it on that plane that landed about 5 minutes ahead of them. On account of that, the lights were still on, not timing out, hence the runway still lit. If it had been dark, they would have went on to IAB and we wouldn't be having this conversation. LOL
tim mitchell 1
another thing that probably didnt help was the populated area between the two fields
tim mitchell 1
this might explain your rapid descent
PhotoFinish 1
I misred it the first time. I read it as the plane landed five minutes before them, as in they were behind their plane.

But then noticed you meant the other plane that landed before them and that turned on the lights. LOL

Same to you and all.
Happy Thanksgiving!
craig kampen 2
Part 135 and 121 SOPS clearly state that if an instrument approach is available it will be tuned and used! This rule was instated for this very reason. A rule that all Professional Pilots are aware of and follow everyday. (all pilots should) This is a very simple procedure that would have eliminated a very dangerous and stupid decision by this Crew. I am sure they do and will (for a long time) regret this decision . All we can hope for is that other crews that do not adhere to rules meant for their ,and others safety will learn from their mistake. All in all this could have been considerably worse in outcome but fortunately and hopefully a learning lesson for all.
SootBox 2
Boeing is lucky they aren't salvaging a wrecked plane.
preacher1 2
At some point before touchdown, they realized it was a short field. They were either lined up tight to begin with or did a pretty good drop to get down quickly. There ere skid marks on the runway. I feel like it was the former or they would have been picking up the pieces. Probably the wisest decision they made was not to move the plane after they landed. For all it went thru, let's just give kudos to Boeing for building a good airplane. According to Boeing's spec sheet, the DREAMLIFTER can do about a grand LESS at MTOW than a regular 747-400.
Victor Engel 1
For some reason this story reminds me of the time the first 747 landed at Guatemala City. I think there were about 15,000 spectators. I was a kid at the time. I don't think I'd ever seen a 747 before. Mostly the planes were Panam 707s. The thing I noticed most was how slowly the plane seemed to be moving through the air. That, combined with the sound of the engines is something I'll never forget.

Guatemala City La Aurora's runstrip I believe is 9800 feet long. There's a ravine at one end, and a tall brick wall or aqueduct or something at the other end. There's a youtube video simulation of a Dreamlifter landing there, from the perspective of just beyond that aqueduct (or whatever it is).
Pileits 3
Is anybody reading this stuff considering fatigue?
How many hours had this crew flown in the previous 24h, in the past week, or past month?
I bet these guys were just totally worn out and when a person is exhausted they make mistakes, LOTS of them.

Remember the US Congress recently reduced the amount of flight and duty time passenger pilots can work but didn't have the courage to reduce cargo pilots flight and duty time limits as well.
A pilot is a human being no matter what is riding in the back of the airplane. Flight and duty time limitations ought to apply to ALL commercial pilots no matter what they are hauling or flying.
preacher1 1
To my knowledge, none of the news coverage nor any of us that made comments touched on that subject at all. Probably, had something came out in a story or with News coverage from that angle, it would have shifted the focus of all the comments and the concentration would then have been more on Atlas and work rules rather than on pilots making a mistake. That plane came out of Italy and refueled at New York and then came on. Whether there was a crew change at New York, which is where Atlas is Hq., or not never came out in anything
Randy Michel 1
IMHO, they completely mismanaged their systems. They had so much information to go on, and if they were unfamiliar with the area, why not consult ATC? If an Air New Zealand crew can locate a lost Ag-Wagon pilot over the South Pacific using the skills of a resourceful crew with just an INS to tell them where they were, then this crew should have been able to land at the right airport using the systems on board their jet. Another scenario where experience doesn't make up for lack of discipline, skill and resourcefulness. Hey Sully, how about that 1500 hr rule?
Where? was the point of origin - Pilot Fatigue ?
joe milazzo 1
When in doubt couple the autopilot to the approach or just follow the ques of your flight director. I though that most airlines have made it mandatory that crews back up visual approaches with an instrument approach? ....I have in my part 91 department. We go as far as to build a simple 3 nm fix in the FMS on runways without approaches just as a reference.
"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it!"
preacher1 1
Both Joe and Craig are correct here in their comments below. It is one thing to look out the window if it is VFR but you cannot ignore your instruments; they are there and loaded for a reason. I do think there is some fault here to be laid on ATC, as they should have seen a premature descent, especially the tower at IAB, as they had them cleared for landing.
cblair0608 1
Its a simple mistake, we all make them. One time at Destin, FL I landed in the wrong direction on the runway and I was just plane LUCKY that ATC had noticed. Eventho I had already changed frequencies the other airplane waiting to depart was still with departure ATC and they were held on the ground......VERY LUCKY for me. I have not made that mistake since.........a LESSON LEARNED!!
Now when I go to a new or unfamiliar airport I will always program in the approach whether im IFR or doing a visual.
In simple words, EVERY pilot is ENTITLED to make mistakes once in a while, even if it means to endanger the well being of the aircraft, and the lives of passengers too !
Is this what you mean, my dear friend cblair0608 ?
preacher1 1
As I have commented elsewhere, it is a mistake, and yes, we will all make them every now and then, BUT, at this level, there is no mercy when you get caught.
Yes you have said so many a time, and that's what I've learnt from you.
But I was curious what our friend cblair0608 was meaning to say ?
VERY CAREFULLY or you'll wreck.
IF they had done the the ILS this would not have happen but this being said where was atc while this going on ? I bet they never make that mistake again. I did some blunders while I was flying so feel kinda sorry for them but it is a serious mistake.
Because they thought they knew too much, the ATCs included.
Such people(pilots and ATCs) should be withdrawn from active duty for ever or may be for a fairly long time, and then must be made to start afresh.
To say the least.
May be too harsh, BUT considering the nature of mistake , that is the minimum/must .
Or else, some others may do it. Remember world(not USA alone) is full of crazy and over confident people.
preacher1 2
Still don't know the why, but in most cases like this, there is very little mercy. If you commit an offense, punishment is generally spelled out with no exception.
Yes , you can say that again.
Mistake is a mistake. Period.
Like you have taught me, a pilot has to deliver 100 % .
Happy Thanksgiving .
PhotoFinish 1
The article was well written knowledgeable and discussed the issues involved, gives good background info, and most likely explanations foe how the incident transpired.

I have no issues with the article. Further I don't know what discipline will be meted out for the incident, nor do I have any suggestion. I'll leave that to others to opine.

After all the comments, discussion, and articles we have sense of the incident. For those who don't have the tins not desire to read all those comments and squawks, this article covers the bases well, and leaves folks with a good understanding.
tim mitchell 1
I just noted something very interesting....both of the LOC/ILS approaches for 18 and 19 at McConnell and Jabara both start with 109....I think this may very well be an incorrectly tuned freq.
sparkie624 2
They were on a visual approach !
preacher1 1
It wasn't full visual. They had the instruments programmed but just chose to ignore them, once they thought they had the field in sight. Regardless of what has been said here, that is not an uncommon practice, although going to such is generally cross checked by scanning your panel. Most GA pilots, if filed IFR, will close their plan before landing if they see the field. As another post says here, most 121 and 135 SOP's require them open from takeoff to touchdown.
cblair0608 1
Eventho they were on a visual they will still tune the ILS in and use it as an additional aid in landing. Its more difficult at night so its not uncommon to tune in the ILS to assist you in your altitude. If Tim is correct, in that they had also incorrectly tuned the wrong ILS this would indeed make sense.
tim mitchell 0
I doubt it was full visual especially from 40 miles out....probably went visual after they thought they had the field....the thing about Jabara is it's only a LOC approach....with no defined glide slop they probably focused on the beacon and the runway approach lights.
Andy Bowland 0
The article mentions a 747 with a full avionics suite...most GA airplanes have much better avionics than a typical airliner. They could bring their own iPad with gps and moving map, except most gps receivers can get a signal behind the heated windows in an airliners. They messed up and ATC helped--or didn't do anything to fix the problem.


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