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-   -   C-17 landing at wrong airport - crew fatigue? (https://www.pprune.org/military-aviation/506269-c-17-landing-wrong-airport-crew-fatigue.html)

Heathrow Harry 26th Jan 2013 09:20

C-17 landing at wrong airport - crew fatigue?
The Air Force has concluded its investigation into an incident last July when a C-17 Globemaster III landed atteh wrong airport.

And the reasons for the mistake, according to a report that resulted from the Air Force investigation and published by the Tampa Bay Tribune, went beyond simple human error.

Rather than touching down at its intended destination — the MacDill Air Force Base (KMCF) in Tampa, Florida — the large cargo airplane landed at the Peter O Knight (KTPF) general aviation airport. KTPF is located about five miles northeast of KMCF on a similar albeit significantly smaller peninsula. The runway heading would have indicated to the pilots that they were approaching the right airport as both airports have the same Runway 4-22. However, it is surprising that the pilots of the heavy jet didn’t notice the difference in the runway lengths. KTPF’s runway is only about one third of the length of MacDill’s.

The report showed no record of who was in charge of the airplane, nor does it indicate whether any disciplinary action was taken against the crew, which was a part of the 305th Air Mobility Wing based in New Jersey. It does, however, state that in the days prior to the incident the crew “flew into complex airfields, dealt with multiple mission changes and flew long mission legs with several stops each day.”

The mission for the botched flight, which originated in Rome, had been changed several times before the final assignment of MacDill came about one hour before the Globemaster departed on July 20.

Several factors, including previous time zone changes, contributed to the pilot and copilot not operating at full mental capacity. The report stated that the pilot was acting at a 79 percent cognitive effectiveness and the copilot 89 percent. In comparison, a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level reduces the cognitive capacity to 70 percent.

A third crewmember, also a Globemaster pilot, assisted during the mid-air refueling -- a requirement for the flight that lasted nearly 12 hours. It appears that the three crewmembers were the only people onboard the C-17 capable of flying the airplane.

Fortunately the long flight ended in a safe landing at the 3,500-foot runway at KTPF, where the copilot was forced to apply “maximum effort braking” to get the airplane stopped in time. The final, short leg of the transoceanic flight was completed later the same day.

Newforest2 26th Jan 2013 10:23

Previous thread. :)


AtomKraft 26th Jan 2013 10:57

These guys must have landed at McDill countless times- and been very aware of the presence of the 'other' airport.

Or not?

S76Heavy 26th Jan 2013 11:13

When you're tired you tend to see what you expect to see, I suppose.

avionimc 26th Jan 2013 11:33

And, runways are only a couple of miles apart, almost aligned, same final.

SMT Member 26th Jan 2013 13:44

And, runways are only a couple of miles apart, almost aligned, same final.
And, KTPF is to the NE of McDill, which one suspects would make it the first runway to make visual contact with when arriving from Rome.

Speed of Sound 26th Jan 2013 14:29

Same final yes, but when you have five miles left to run, you don't expect to see the runway half a mile below you. :-(


Pontius Navigator 26th Jan 2013 15:09

Of course it has never happened before :)

Like Milltown is parallel with Lossie but 3.5 miles SE.

Or even Cottesmore and Wittering which are 10 miles apart.

These of course are both displaced horizontally but I am sure there are many other instances of aircraft landing short, possibly Easy Kirkby and Coningsby I seem to recollect (when the former was an emergency landing airfield at 6500ft).

Tankertrashnav 26th Jan 2013 15:31

Air India Boeing 707 landing at Changi instead of Paya Lebar.

Javelin landing at Seletar instead of Tengah (both in 1967).

Four approximately North - South runways on small island like Singapore and this was inevitable.

Willard Whyte 26th Jan 2013 15:39

At Lyneham we were always advised that an instrument approach tended to reduce the misidentification of airfields, particularly after longer crew duty days.

Knew someone who didn't get his B cat as a result of choosing a visual approach.

Tiger_mate 26th Jan 2013 15:43

1979 and a USAF Bitburg based F15 Eagle (single seat) that had a nav computer failure landed at Wyton instead of Alconbury and even changed RT freq to Alconbury tower on roll out. The mother of all tails along these lines has to be the BA B747 that nearly landed on the A road alongside Heathrow. Nutts Corner got a few aircraft aiming for Aldergrove.

Pontius Navigator 26th Jan 2013 16:03

Originally Posted by Willard Whyte (Post 7657414)
At Lyneham

Ah Lyneham. In days of yore baby navs actually flew some sorties without screens (IIRC). Baby nav called forward to identify airfield pundit for the airfield to which he had navigated.

Identified .-.. .- as .... ...-

When asked if he was sure he was positive that it was Hullavington. Pilot duly landed, came to a stop, disembarked nav, and took off for base. He instructed ATC that baby nav be allowed to make his own, unassisted, return to base.

WASALOADIE 26th Jan 2013 16:37

Mid 80's, Dan Air HS 748 landed at Langford Lodge In Northern Ireland instead of Aldergrove Airport.

Did Air Traffic Control not have an imput into the C17 incident? did they not query that they could not see the aircraft on finals?

West Coast 26th Jan 2013 16:41

Fatigue perhaps, but other another contender would be complacency.

VinRouge 26th Jan 2013 16:42

the two go hand in hand.

con-pilot 26th Jan 2013 16:56

For those of us that have operated in and out of McDill, such a mistake as to confuse any runway in that area on a clear day, to McDill's, is totally mind boggling.

The runway at McDill is huge, I don't mean just long, but extremely wide as well.

I'm not saying the report is wrong or covering up something, but just WOW, how the hell could the crew make such a mistake, no matter how tired they are?

But, anything is possible I guess. :\

Bellerophon 26th Jan 2013 17:00

...When you're tired you tend to see what you expect to see, I suppose...

... KTPF is to the NE of McDill, which one suspects would make it the first runway to make visual contact with when arriving from Rome...

...runways are only a couple of miles apart, almost aligned, same final....
There are reports in the Tampa press that the crew were aware of the proximity of Peter O Knight (KTPF) to MacDill (KMCF), and were trying to identify it in order to avoid the obvious trap.

However, there is yet another airfield, Tampa Executive (KVDF) some 8 miles to the NE of KTPF, which also has a short (4,200') runway aligned 05/23.

That makes it three airfields within 13 miles, all roughly in a straight line aligned NE/SW, all with runways aligned NE/SW, the first two of which (when approaching from the NE as this crew were) have short runways.

The reports go on to state - it is not clear on what basis or where they obtained their information - that the first airfield the crew saw was Tampa Executive which unfortunately they mis-identified as Peter O Knight, and therefore "knew" that the next airfield on track "must be" MacDill.

Whether this was the case or not I don't know, but looking at a map it does seem plausible and might offer a partial explanation as to how this incident came about.

It would be easy to laugh at a crew landing a C-17 on a 3,500' runway instead of the 11,421' runway they were expecting, but I suspect many of us, over the years, under the sort of pressure which this crew was under, may have come a bit closer to something similar than we would care to admit - even if it wasn't continued to a landing - and might have just a little sympathy for them. There but for the grace of God and all that!

Best Regards


VinRouge 26th Jan 2013 17:33

a skipper and I got quite low once in 5k vis on the way into Basrah, we had lined up on street lights "that must have been" the runway.

It wasnt until I picked up the Head down display showing us 3 miles offset did we realise there was something up...

Always flown FD coupled from then on to the final fix to prevent re-occurence, especially in doggers vis and on goggs. The fact we had flown 125 hours in the previous 30 days may have had a contributory factor...

exeng 26th Jan 2013 18:11

Tiger Mate

The mother of all tails along these lines has to be the BA B747 that nearly landed on the A road alongside Heathrow
This aircraft (a 747-100 series) did not mistake the A4 for RWY 27R. They neither saw RW 27R or the A4.

They were attempting an autoland due to poor vis. The 747-100 series particularly had poor automatics (compared to more modern equipment these days) and the aircraft had to be 'nurtured' into a stable approach by positioning for a long final. They did not give the aircraft this opportunity and it never became stabilised on the localiser.

When it was apparent the aircraft was not stable a late go-around was executed, and while I would make no personal judgement of the crew, it would seem the go-around was poorly executed in that much less than full go-around EPR (1.41) was attained and insufficient nose up pitch was applied.

Worthy of note was the fact that the F/O was new to the fleet and had yet to carry out his 'all wx ops' training. Permission was granted by BA management to carry out an autoland despite the F/O's lack of training.

Also noteworthy was the fact that both the F/O and F/E were suffering from bad stomach upsets which they had apparently picked up in the slip at MRU. The F/O had sought medical advice and was given some medication to help. The F/E apparently did not seek medical advice but had used some of the medication given to the F/O.

The F/E never flew again and the Captain was demoted. He was also prosecuted by the CAA for reasons I have no time for here and sadly committed suicide some time later.

BA management stopped giving such permissions for autolands when crew member were unqualified. BA then undertook a major overhaul of the operational procedures to be used when operating low vis ops.


safetypee 26th Jan 2013 19:05

“It would be easy to laugh at a crew landing a C-17 on a 3,500' runway instead of the 11,421' runway they were expecting.”

Perhaps an example of ‘target fixation’ in using the HUD to assess the flight path intersecting the landing zone and not ‘seeing’ the actual runway length or surrounding cues?

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