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'Wrong airport' Dreamlifter successfully takes off

Thursday, 21 Nov 2013 | 12:59 PM ET
Boeing Dreamlifter lifts off
Thursday, 21 Nov 2013 | 2:11 PM ET
CNBC's Phil Lebeau reports that a new piloting crew successfully took off from Jabara airport after the Boeing Dreamlifter landed at the wrong airport.

After a 13 hour stop at the wrong airport, a Boeing Dreamlifter carrying parts for a 787 Dreamliner took off on a short runway and made the final flight to its final destination.

The Dreamlifter operated by Atlas Air Cargo took off at 1:16 CDT Wednesday afternoon from Col. James Jabara Airport in Northeast Wichita.

With a runway far shorter than 747 planes normally use for take-offs, the Dreamlifter lifted off quickly, without incident.

As a precaution authorities in Kansas closed off roads near the airport during the take-off.

The Dreamlifter touched down at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, its originally scheduled destination, after a short flight that lasted 19 minutes. The landing at McConnell was without incident.

Taking a wrong turn

How did a Boeing Dreamlifter, scheduled to land at McConnell Air Force Base, wind up landing at a small private airport about 9 miles away.

The Dreamlifter, a modified and enlarged Boeing 747 which transports sections of 787 Dreamliners, was on a final approach into Wichita when the pilot sounded confused about where he was landing.

Air traffic control tower: "Giant 4241 Heavy, do you know which airport you're at?"

Dreamlifter Pilot: "Well we think we have a pretty good pulse. Let me ask you this,… how many airports do, directly to the south of 1-9,… your 1-9 are there?"

The plane, operated by Atlas Air Cargo, landed at Col. James Jabara Airport without incident. Now the question is whether it can take off?

Boeing Dreamlifter lands at wrong airport
A Boeing Dreamlifter landed at the wrong airport in Kansas, reports CNBC's Phil LeBeau.

Runway too small?

After landing at Jabara Wednesday night, the Dreamlifter was able to turn around and position itself to take off for a very short flight to the McConnell Air Force Base. However, the runway at Jabara is 6,101 feet long. That's far shorter than the 9,199 feet of runway that is optimal for a 747 taking off.

It created an interesting question, for those in the aviation world. Would the Dreamlifter have enough runway to take-off safely?

Brad Christopher with the Wichita Airport Authority said the very large plane would be ok to leave from the very small, executive airport.

"They've assured us they've run all the engineering calculations, performance and the aircraft is safe for a normal departure at its current weight and conditions here."

Creating a scene in Wichita

Meanwhile, as the Dreamlifter sat at Jabara, dwarfing small planes and business jets parked nearby, it created a bit of a stir in Wichita. People driving by the small airport in northeast part of the city to get a glimpse of the big bird parked on the runway, backed up traffic. Even a few fender benders were reported.

On Twitter, the Dreamlifter's wrong turn in the prompted a few humorous tweets.

Karlene Petitt, a pilot based in Seattle, tweeted out a picture of herself standing in front of a Dreamlifter, and wrote: "Women pilots don't land at the wrong airport. We ask for directions!"

By CNBC's Phil LeBeau; Follow him on Twitter: @Lebeaucarnews.

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