Atlas BLCF at Wichita on Nov 20th 2013, landed at wrong airport

Last Update: September 25, 2020 / 14:07:24 GMT/Zulu time

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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Nov 20, 2013


Atlas Air

Aircraft Registration

ICAO Type Designator

An Atlas Air Boeing 747-400 Dreamlifter, registration N780BA performing freight flight 5Y-4241 from New York JFK,NY to Wichita McConnell Airbase,KS (USA) with 2 crew, was on a GPS/RNAV approach to McConnel Airport's runway 19L but unintentionally landed on runway 18 of Wichita's Jabara Airport (width 100 feet, length 6100 feet/1860 meters) and managed to stop the aircraft on the runway. The crew subsequently reported to be on the ground and intending to vacate via taxiway D, to which the tower responded puzzled "stand by", then reporting they were about 8nm from the aerodrome. The crew subsequently believed they had landed on Wichita's Beech Airport, the even more puzzled tower controller replied "confirm you landed at Beech Airport?", the crew requested the UNICOM frequency for Beech after the tower had reported the tower was closed at that time of the night. McConnell Tower then reported the coordinates of Beech Airport, the crew returned the coordinates that they were showing, after which tower identified the airport as Jabara according to those position data. In the meantime a person on the ground had arrived at the aircraft and told the crew the local frequency. The aircraft and airport sustained no damage but created a lot of curiosity by spectators.

Jabara Airport was closed, as a precaution all lights were turned off.

A tug was dispatched to Jabara to help turning the aircraft around for a runway 36 departure. In the meantime the aircraft has departed the airport and 19 minutes after departure made it to their true destination McConnel Airport.

Jabara Airport is located about 7.8nm north of McConnel Airport almost on the extended runway centerline of McConnel. McConnell Airport features two parallel runways 01/19 of 12000 feet length/3660 meters.

The FAA is investigating the occurrence.

On Nov 23rd 2013 the NTSB announced they have opened an investigation into the occurrence.

Airport Officials of Jabara Airport said they were surprised to see such a large aircraft on their runway, an inspection of the runway and airport facilities revealed there was no damage to airport property.

The unexpected aircraft at Jabara attracted a large crowd of spectators watching the departure.

On Sep 25th 2020 the NTSB released their final report concluding the probable cause of the incident was:

the flight crew's failure to properly identify the airport and runway of intended landing. Contributing to the incident was the flight crew's failure to follow company procedures for crosschecking navigational information and visual cues to verify the airport and runway of intended landing.

The NTSB summarized the sequence of events:

The captain briefed a visual approach to IAB runway 19L and that they were to back it up with the RNAV GPS runway 19L to IAB. He informed the first officer (FO) that he expected to be high on the profile as he had the three times he had previously flown into KIAB and that it was hard to acquire the runway visually unless the approach light system and runway lights were turned up to bright. The FO did not remember the briefing containing the caution in the company's station guide regarding the three airports in close proximity to KIAB nor to remain above 3,000 feet until west of Beech Field. In post incident interviews, both pilots indicated they were aware of the NOTAM that runway 1L/19R at KIAB was closed at the time of the incident.

When the flight was about 25 miles from KIAB, and the crew contacted approach control as the airplane was leveling at 10,000 feet. Approach control cleared the flight for the RNAV/GPS runway 19L approach and to cross WITBA at 4,000 feet. When the flight was about 12 miles north of KIAB, and 4.6 miles north of KAAO, at 3,900 feet, the controller instructed the flight to contact the tower. The crew then checked in with KIAB tower and was cleared to land on runway 19L. At that time, both pilots stated that a well-lit runway was visible in the approximate location of KIAB, which they believed to be runway 19L. The captain then disconnected the autopilot, discontinued the RNAV approach, and began a slightly steeper than normal approach to the what they believed to be the KIAB runway. Neither pilot crosschecked nor verified the airport position using onboard navigation after that point. The flight crew did not recognize the error until after touchdown when they each realized the runway was shorter than expected and the airport surroundings were not familiar. The local controller had less than one minute to detect the flight's premature descent, and the minimum safe altitude warning software assumed that the airplane was intentionally landing at KAAO and therefore did not issue a warning to the approach controller.

The NTSB further detailed:

The captain was the pilot flying and the first officer was the pilot monitoring. According to the flight crew, while on the ground at John F. Kennedy International Airport (KJFK), the captain had preplanned for the approach by loading the flight plan into the flight management computer (FMC) for the flight to KIAB, to include entering the RNAV GPS runway 19L approach while on the ground. Prior to arrival, the captain briefed a visual approach to runway 19L and to back it up with the RNAV GPS runway 19L.

At 2109, the crew contacted Wichita (ICT) approach control, and was told to expect runway 19L. At about this time, the FO's primary flight display (PFD) started to malfunction, which required the FO to cross reference his PFD's indications with those of the captain's PFD.

At 2111:10 the flight crew requested to proceed direct to WITBA and conduct the RNAV 19L approach. The flight was subsequently cleared to descend to 4,000 feet.

At 2114:00, the ICT controller indicated that the flight was "25 miles from the airport, cross WITBA at 4,000, cleared RNAV/GPS runway 19L approach."

At 2118:45, the flight was instructed to contact McConnell tower. At that time, the flight was at 3,900 feet, 12 miles north of KIAB and 4.6 miles north of KAAO.

At 2119:05, the KIAB local controller clear the flight to land on runway 19L, which the flight crew acknowledged.

At 2120:38, according to recorded ICT radar data, the airplane landed at KAAO.

At 2121:42, the IAB local controller contacted the flight stating, "…check wheels down and expect midfield turn off taxiway Delta."

At 2121:51, the flight responded, "…4241 we might uh we'll get back to you here momentarily we're not on your approach."

At 2122:09, flight 4241indicated, "…uh yes sir we just landed at the other airport." During the subsequent discussion, the flight crew initially thought they had landed at KBEC but worked with the KIAB local controller to finally determine they had landed at KAAO.

The NTSB reported the captain had over 20.000 flying hours total, thereof 10,000 hours on type and 1460 hours in command on type. The first officer had accumulated 11,861 flying hours, thereof 2,096 hours on type.
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Incident Facts

Date of incident
Nov 20, 2013


Atlas Air

Aircraft Registration

ICAO Type Designator

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