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Feds open probe into how cargo jet landed at wrong airport

By Tom Watkins, CNN
updated 3:33 PM EST, Fri November 22, 2013
  • The National Transportation Safety Board is opening its own investigation
  • The plane landed safely at McConell Air Force Base
  • Jabara Airport has no control tower and a much shorter runway

(CNN) -- Federal authorities announced Friday they have opened an investigation into how a mammoth cargo plane landed Wednesday at the wrong airport in Wichita, Kansas.

The National Transportation Safety Board's probe is in addition to a probe announced Thursday by Atlas Air, operator of the Boeing-owned jet. It left New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport bound for McConnell Air Force Base, but landed instead on the other side of town at Colonel James Jabara Airport.

The latter airport does not typically accommodate such beasts.

The Atlas Air 747 Dreamlifter is a modified 747-400 passenger airplane that can haul more cargo by volume than any airplane in the world. When fully loaded, the Dreamlifter needs a runway 9,199 feet long to take off, reports affiliate KWCH. The Jabara runway is 6,101 feet.

But, after spending Wednesday night performing calculations that factored in the lighter weight from the fuel burned during the flight from JFK and the favorable weather, engineers approved its attempt to take off from Jabara's abbreviated runway.

On Thursday afternoon, after police cleared nearby roads -- just in case -- the plane took off without incident from Jabara. A few minutes later, it landed without incident at its original planned destination -- McConnell Air Force Base.

Photos: Boeing through the ages

CNN's Ed Payne contributed to this report

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