You may remember seeing this mishap on the news back in 2012, when a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III landed at the wrong airport. The intended destination for the aircraft was the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, but instead, it landed at Peter O. Knight Airport, a general aviation airport, by mistake. Wrong airport landings are never ideal, but the pilot, co-pilot, and crew members did quite a good job getting it slowed down before the end of the short runway.
The two airports were only about five miles away from each other, and they also both had the same style of runway. The most major difference between the two is that the Peter O. Knight Airport has a much smaller, 3,500-foot runway, making it around one-third of the size of MacDill’s runway. The small airport was not exactly designed for large cargo planes such as this, so the flight crew was forced to apply “maximum effort braking” in order to successfully execute the C-17 landing.
As the plane waited at the airport for further instruction, it became a trending topic in the area. Local news such as the Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Bay Times were quick to jump on the story. As it turns out, the mistake was a result of more than just human error.
The crew inside the plane was part of the 305th Air Mobility Wing based out of New Jersey. After an United States Air Force investigation was launched, it revealed that just days prior to this mistake, the flight crew “flew into complex airfields, dealt with multiple mission changes and flew long mission legs with several stops each day.” The pilots of the plane learned that they would be flying to MacDill about an hour before they departed. Mix that with multiple time zone changes, and it’s apparent that they were not operating at full mental capacity.
Regardless of what led up to this event, it’s a good thing that they were able to get this plane stopped. On top of that, it’s even better that they were able to takeoff from the same runway, which you can check out in the video above. They had to back the plane all the way to the start of the runway in order to get enough speed to generate lift, and although there were some tense moments, the plane did successfully complete the short stint to its final destination later that day. This may not have been the most ideal situation for these pilots, but it does make one hell of a story.