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Engineering firm to test Jabara runway for damage after Dreamlifter landing

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, at 6:15 a.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, March 26, 2014, at 1:31 p.m.


Dreamlifter lifts off for McConnell

The Dreamlifter, a modified Boeing 747, leaves a short runway at Jabara Airport on November 21, 2013. The plane landed at the tiny airport in Wichita, Kansas on November 20, 2013 thinking it was landing at nearby McConnell Air Force Base. The gigantic plane typically flies to Wichita to pick up forward fuselages for assembly of Boeing 787 Dreamliners in Seattle or South Carolina. (video by Jaime Green/November 21, 2013)

The Wichita Airport Authority is monitoring the condition of the runway at Jabara Airport after last week’s landing of a giant wayward Boeing cargo plane, the Dreamlifter.

The airport will bring in a runway pavement specialty engineering firm in early December to conduct tests on the runway to further check for any damage to the pavement.

Initial inspections show the unusual-looking modified 747 did no damage to the runway, although some lights along the strip were broken.

The 747, delivering parts for Boeing 787s, was supposed to land at McConnell Air Force Base but mistakenly landed at Jabara, eight miles to the north at 37th Street and Webb Road.

Because Jabara is a smaller airport that wasn’t intended to handle such big aircraft, airport operations, maintenance and engineering personnel visually inspected the runway that night, said Victor White, director of airports for the Wichita Airport Authority.

It was reinspected the next day in the daylight and again after the plane lifted off in the afternoon, White said.

There was no apparent damage to the runway pavement at that time, he said.

The engineering firm will conduct the tests next month and again in the spring to determine whether damage occurred, White said.

“Pavement damage sometimes isn’t discovered until the concrete has been through a number of freeze-thaw cycles that typically occur during the winter months,” White said in an e-mail.

The Dreamlifter weighs about 600,000 pounds – about 10 times the weight that Jabara’s runway is designed to handle.

After the plane took off for McConnell, the damaged runway lights were immediately replaced by airport maintenance personnel.

The airport, which had been closed, then reopened for normal traffic.

Should the runway need repairs, the airport initially will pay for them, White said. The bills will then be submitted to Atlas Air, which contracts with Boeing to supply the flight crew for Dreamlifter flights.

Jabara’s runway of 6,101 feet is almost half the length of the one at McConnell. There were heavy skid marks at the end of the runway where the Dreamlifter stopped.

Atlas Air flew in a new crew Thursday morning to fly the plane out of Jabara.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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