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Atlas Air: 747 pilots turned off navigation system

Published On: Jan 06 2014 05:31:55 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 07 2014 04:42:27 PM CST

The pilot thought he was too high, and turned off the automatic navigation, causing a cargo jet to land at a Wichita airport designed for business jets.

A Boeing Dreamlifter cargo plane landed at Jabara Airport Nov. 21. The 747 was supposed to arrive at McConnell Air Force Base, but landed 9 miles away.

Boeing contracts with Atlas Air to fly the airplane. Atlas Air released its own internal investigation with a video response, about two weeks after the mistaken landing.

The description is in a training video produced by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings and obtained by Aviation International News. Atlas confirmed the accuracy of the AIN report on Tuesday.

Bonnie Rodney, spokeswoman, said the video was for internal communication and training, and not intended for distribution.

Jeffery Carlson, Vice President of Flight Operations for Atlas Air, said the pilot landed at the wrong airport because he turned of the automatic navigation system.

"There had been previous issues with the instrument display, just enough for the pilot to question if it was accurate," Carlson said in the 15 minute video. The pilot landed visually, instead, and landed at the wrong airport.

Carlson said the pilots did not talk during the landing, the co-pilot said in a report he thought something was odd.

Eyewitness News talked with retired commercial flight Captain Doug Moler to break down the video. Moler says the lights at Jabara have different settings, controlled by pilots.

"The lights at Jabara were up on high and that was the first thing they picked out and that captain went for it. He' s thinking big airbase, this is it," said Moler.

Atlas' investigation shows the co-pilot questioned the landing but did not say anything.

"While the pilot monitoring was concerned about the rate of decent and whether this was the correct runway, he remained silent," said Carlson.

"You can't say, well the captain was flying the airplane and it's all the captain's fault. It's not really. This is a team. It's a crew and they have equal amounts of responsibility," said Moler.

Carlson says crews in the towers should have noticed the plane attempting to land at the wrong airport.

"Somebody should've seen that these guys are making a mistake," said Moler.

The company has since made changes so a similar incident never happens again.

The incident remains under investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board. Rodney said Atlas continues to work with the NTSB and FAA investigations.

It could be several months before a final report is released.

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