C-17 lands at wrong airport



Via NYC Aviation, a C-17 Globemaster III landed at Peter O. Knight airport in Tampa, Fla., startling some of the crew on the ground.

Our friends at WTSP-TV in Tampa report that the plane was intending to land at MacDill Air Force Base about five miles away.

Witnesses and nearby homeowners near the airport, when the plane landed, say they could hardly believe their eyes and feared the aircraft may crash through the end of the small runway and end up in Tampa Bay.

“Two words: one starts with O and one starts with S,” said Don Sipila, who guesses that’s what was going through the pilot’s mind moments after his C-17 touched down on the wrong runway.

“It was extremely loud, the wings were wavering a little bit because he was doing a curving type of thing. You could clearly see this was a maximum effort short field landing. You don’t practice these things,” said Sipila.

“We all thought he was going to go off the end. Clearly this was the wrong airport for this aircraft.”

Sipila, a pilot himself, suspects the massive cargo plane got clearance to land at MacDill and thought that’s where he was landing.

“MacDill is about five miles right off the end of this runway and it has the same number: 22 lined up in the same direction. But it’s 11,500 feet long … as a pilot I could see it’s a long runway. This is only 35-hundred feet!”

And the video of the C–17 taking off:


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  1. Aaron Horrell on

    I am so very proud of the pilot who bravely put this big plane back in the sky and back on mission! She is the best!

  2. George Henderson on

    I was stationed at MacDill in the late 70’s. We had an Commercial airliner accidently land at MacDill instead of the Commerical Airport. I guess they look a lot alike.

  3. Proud? They landed at the WRONG airport. This is not an event that should be praised. This situation brought up during training not to mention they have GPS and NAVAIDS that were most likely saying they were in the wrong place. I say Q3 the pilots…But it is the Air Force, they will probably get a DFC and get promoted below the zone.

  4. The civilian witness says in response to the max effort landing ” they don’t practice those things”. You must work for the media, not having a clue what you are talking about. Max Efforts are a requirement to practice in the Air Force.

  5. “I am so very proud of the pilot who bravely put this big plane back in the sky and back on mission! She is the best!”

    Proud?! The Best?! NO WAY! The best pilots land on the cleared runway at the correct airfield. Would she have still been the best if a small Cessna had been on that runway when she landed? Yes, she stopped the aircraft within the confines of the runway and got back in the air. But it has been said more than once that superior pilots use superior judgment so they do not have to use their superior flying skills.

  6. Poor guy. Whoops is right.

    “Tower, I think we landed at your airport by accident. Hello? Tower? Oh wait, this airport’s too small to have a tower. Right tower? Yep… now I’m just talkin’ to myself.”

  7. ^ People bashing the “Proud” comment:

    The crew that took off and returned to MacDill were NOT THE SAME CREW that landed erroneously.

  8. And some people say they’re proud of the pilot being able to put the C-17 back in the air? That pilot should be demoted if not court martialed for nearly causing a potentially catastrophic situation by failing to utilize all the high tech resources on that state-of-the-art aircraft to locate the proper airport, given that it was also a clear Florida day. And wasn’t the air base tower supposed to be monitoring their landing and alerting them of the error? There’s a reason why the Navy trains its own pilots to land on carriers. If the air force can’t distinguish a 3500 ft general aviation airport runway from an 11000 ft military base runway, they’d be “S” out of luck trying to find a moving floating short runway in the middle of the ocean. Did they say the pilot was a “she”? I rest my case. I get my share of that on the freeways and parking lots.

  9. Comprehension on

    Gofast is right. Let’s take a second and actually read the first comment and think about what was said before blasting off from the hip so you can show everyone on the internet how smart you are.

    Do you really think they would let the same crew turn around and take off again? Those guys were at the nearest military medical center getting blood drawn and writing their statements… and probably praying that they’ll be allowed to fly ever again. If that aircraft had any amount of cargo, it was unloaded first, and they burned off any extra fuel before taking off again. There was no, “Oops. Sorry guys, we’re just gonna go now.” The pilot that did fly it out of there was given a golden moment to take someone’s mistake and look really good fixing it.

    Maybe next time read what was actually said.

  10. The pilot ignored all of the warnings and purposefully landed at the wrong airport. He will get away with it and make General. because of the awards he has won.

  11. COMPREHENSION and GOFAST is so right.
    The plane was offloaded (I guess it was firetrucks onboard), and a new crew took of some 7-8 hours later.

  12. I saw similar near-miss landing in San Jose, California a few years ago when a Boeing 727 made an approach to Reid-Hillview Airport (RHV) early on a foggy morning, flying very low over my house on final approach. The pilot realized his mistake less than a half mile from touchdown and abruptly veered off toward San Jose International (SJC). Both airports have multiple parallel runways on similar alignments, but where SJC has 10,000-foot runways, the ones at RHV are only about 3,000 feet. If he had landed at RHV successfully without running off the end into a residential neighborhood, they probably would have had to haul the plane out in pieces. At least the B727 has a rear air-stair door for getting out: RHV has no mobile stairways for large aircraft, since it is a GA airport that only handles small planes, so it would have been a big problem for passengers and crew.

  13. Joen, it’s easy to say something you didn’t quite mean when you have a news camera stuck in your face and you’re not used to it. As a civilian aviator I know as well as anybody that of course, we practice short field takeoffs and landings, just in case we’re in a situation where we need to KNOW how to do it.

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