Friday, July 20, 2012

Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft carrying 23 passengers, plus a crew of 19, landed at Peter O Knight Airport (KTPF), Tampa, rather than at the planned destination of MacDill Air Force Base, about 4 miles away – USAF statement

Air Force Cargo Jet Lands at Wrong, Smaller, Airport 

 TAMPA | A military cargo plane that typically requires 3,500 feet for takeoff landed unexpectedly Friday at Peter O. Knight Airport, where the longest runway is 95 feet short.

Work began immediately to lighten the load of the 174-foot-long aircraft so that it might leave Davis Islands safely.

The drama ended at 8:27 p.m., when the C-17 Globemaster III took a hop over Hillsborough Bay to MacDill, the original destination. It landed just a few minutes later.

It was unclear why the plane, headed to MacDill, made an unscheduled landing at the small airport near downtown Tampa. Master Sgt. Bryan Gatewood, a spokesman for MacDill Air Force Base, said authorities are investigating.

Hillsborough County Aviation Authority spokeswoman Janet Zink said the plane landed "inadvertently" at Peter O. Knight Airport.

The plane, arriving from U.S. Central Command operations in southwest Asia with 23 passengers and a crew of 19, touched down on Davis Islands about 1:20 p.m., authorities said.

"It was so loud, it woke up my sister who was sleeping at the time," said Chelsea Alper, 23, a Stetson University College of Law student who was in a convenience store on E Davis Boulevard when she heard the roar of the engines.

Minutes later, witnesses saw a caravan of military vehicles respond to the runway, retrieve the crew and begin to haul away cargo.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the bulky plane has a wingspan of nearly 170 feet.

At 55 feet high, it appeared twice as tall as a nearby hangar, and from certain angles it eclipsed two blue-and-white buses that pulled onto the runway shortly before 5 p.m.

Peter O. Knight is a general aviation airport operated by the Aviation Authority.

It has two runways, including a smaller one that is 2,688 feet and a larger one that is 3,405 feet. The longest runway at MacDill is 11,421 feet.

Over time, the runways of MacDill, Peter O. Knight and Tampa International Airport have occasionally been confused with one another, though unscheduled landings at MacDill have most often made the news.

One week in 2004, two planes mistakenly landed there.

In 1984, a commercial pilot mistook the base for Tampa International Airport and landed a jet loaded with passengers.

This time, all the excitement happened at Peter O. Knight.

"This is the second time this has happened," said spectator Gary Garrett, 71, who has a real estate office on Davis Islands.

"The last time, it was a 727 in the '80s," he recalled, "and they took that plane apart to get it out of here."

All traffic at Peter O. Knight Airport was grounded for seven hours.

"I was supposed to leave about five minutes after that plane landed," said Ryan Gucwa, 29, a corporate pilot from Tampa. He was scheduled to pick up passengers at Tampa International and get them to Georgia on Friday afternoon. Instead, he caught a cellphone video of the C-17's amazing landing.

"It stopped about 6 feet from the end of the runway; any farther and it would have been grass," Gucwa said.

Hours later, Alper thought the takeoff would be impossible.

"It was going so slow I didn't think it was going to make it," she said.

Dozens of people stood outside the gated perimeter, forming an impromptu tailgate party, as the engines roared and the plane inched toward the sky. With about 400 feet to spare, the nose pulled up and the C-17 was back on course.

Marti Smith, 58, a nurse from Tampa, came just in time for takeoff.

When he started moving, I started praying out loud," she said. "It was quite a show."

TAMPA (FOX 13) – Residents of Davis Island got an unusual sight Friday afternoon: A large military cargo plane “inadvertently” landed at Peter O. Knight Airport instead of MacDill Air Force Base.

The C-17 Globemaster roared in around 1:20 p.m., surprising many in the downtown area.

“I see this big guy coming over the top of the hangars there. And I knew, him being that low, that he was at the wrong airport,” recalled corporate pilot Ryan Gucwa, who provided the video footage of the landing seen here. “He touched down probably about a third of the way down the runway and as soon as they did they slammed on those brakes. I thought for sure they were going to go off the end of the runway.”

The small waterfront airport usually handles commuter planes and other general aviation aircraft. Its longest runway is 3,400 feet; Boeing, the plane’s manufacturer, says the 164-foot plane can land in as little as 3,000 feet.

The giant plane needs almost 8,000 feet of runway to take off when it’s fully loaded, but a lot less when it’s empty. Worst-case, the plane might have to be unloaded before it takes off, depending on what’s on board.

A Boeing spokesperson told FOX 13 the plane should be able to take off from the short runway, but deferred further comment to the Air Force.

For comparison, the main runway at MacDill Air Force Base — which is oriented the same direction as the long runway at Peter O. Knight — is 14,000 feet long.

Weight is another concern. The plane weighs roughly 400,000 lbs. but is sitting on an airstrip designed to hold only 20,000 lbs.

The airport will remain closed until the plane can be moved, but officials stressed that it does not pose any threat to downtown residents.

“The Air Force is working to reposition the plane as soon as possible,” Tampa International Airport spokesperson Janet Zink said.

Full USAF statement:

An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft carrying 23 passengers, plus a crew of 19, landed at Peter O. Knight airport near Tampa, rather than at the planned destination of MacDill Air Force Base, about four miles away.

The aircraft, flying in support of U.S. Central Command, was apparently

undamaged and there were no injuries. There appears to be no damage to the airfield. In concert with airfield officials, the Air Force is planning to move the aircraft to allow Peter O. Knight airport to re-open.

The incident is under investigation.

 The military cargo plan landed Friday afternoon at Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands.


 Officials from MacDill Air Force Base are trying to figure out why an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III landed at Peter O. Knight airport shortly after noon Friday, according to Master Sgt. Bryan Gatewood, spokesman for the 6th Air Mobility Wing.

Gatewood said officials were headed to the small municipal airport on Davis Islands to find out why the military jet landed there.

The landing surprised people who work in downtown Tampa office towers.

Frank Kilgore, a pricing manager for Hapag-Lloyd, an international shipping firm with office in the SunTrust tower, said he heard someone in his office yell that the plane was on a final approach to the Davis Islands facility.

"I knew immediately that it was not right," Kilgore said.

Commercial real estate broker Jason Donald was looking out his office window in a downtown skyscraper and saw the plane pass low over the fuel tanks in the Port of Tampa, then turn south toward the airport.

"I face directly over the bay and saw that plane come in so fast and thought to myself, 'Never in a million years is he going to make it,' " Donald said. "I was waiting for flames."

There seemed to be a moment when the pilot realized the mistake, Donald said.

He said the plane needed every inch to stop.

"He was carrying so much speed, I thought, 'This is not going to happen,' " he said. "If his front tire was not in the grass at the end of the runway, he was darn close."

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PHOTO/J. Stonierd
The military aircraft is a C-17 Globemaster, according to officials at the airport.

PHOTO/J. Stonierd
 The military aircraft is a C-17 Globemaster, according to officials at the airport.

A large military cargo plane has made a landing at the relatively small Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa.

The military aircraft is a C-17 Globemaster, according to officials at the airport. The airport is at the southern tip of Davis Island, south of downtown. Officials have not stated why the plane landed at the airport.

According to the Boeing company's website, the "C-17 can carry large equipment, supplies and troops directly to small airfields in harsh terrain anywhere in the world day or night. The massive, sturdy, long-haul aircraft tackles distance, destination and heavy, oversized payloads in unpredictable conditions. It has delivered cargo in every worldwide operation since the 1990s."

The plane can take off from a 7,600-foot airfield and land in 3,000 ft. or less on a small unpaved or paved airfield in day or night, according to Boeing.

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