Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Public safety

Air Force C-17 Globemaster III makes surprise landing at Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands

TAMPA

A military cargo plane that typically requires 3,500 feet for takeoff landed unexpectedly Friday at Peter O. Knight Airport, where the longest runway is 95 feet short.

Work began immediately to lighten the load of the 174-foot-long aircraft so that it might leave Davis Islands safely.

The drama ended at 8:27 p.m., when the C-17 Globemaster III took a hop over Hillsborough Bay to MacDill, the original destination. It landed just a few minutes later.

It was unclear why the plane, headed to MacDill, made an unscheduled landing at the small airport near downtown Tampa. Master Sgt. Bryan Gatewood, a spokesman for MacDill Air Force Base, said authorities are investigating.

Hillsborough County Aviation Authority spokeswoman Janet Zink said the plane landed "inadvertently" at Peter O. Knight Airport.

The plane, arriving from U.S. Central Command operations in southwest Asia with 23 passengers and a crew of 19, touched down on Davis Islands about 1:20 p.m., authorities said.

"It was so loud, it woke up my sister who was sleeping at the time," said Chelsea Alper, 23, a Stetson University College of Law student who was in a convenience store on E Davis Boulevard when she heard the roar of the engines.

Minutes later, witnesses saw a caravan of military vehicles respond to the runway, retrieve the crew and begin to haul away cargo.

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the bulky plane has a wingspan of nearly 170 feet.

At 55 feet high, it appeared twice as tall as a nearby hangar, and from certain angles it eclipsed two blue-and-white buses that pulled onto the runway shortly before 5 p.m.

Peter O. Knight is a general aviation airport operated by the Aviation Authority.

It has two runways, including a smaller one that is 2,688 feet and a larger one that is 3,405 feet. The longest runway at MacDill is 11,421 feet.

Over time, the runways of MacDill, Peter O. Knight and Tampa International Airport have occasionally been confused with one another, though unscheduled landings at MacDill have most often made the news.

One week in 2004, two planes mistakenly landed there.

In 1984, a commercial pilot mistook the base for Tampa International Airport and landed a jet loaded with passengers.

This time, all the excitement happened at Peter O. Knight.

"This is the second time this has happened," said spectator Gary Garrett, 71, who has a real estate office on Davis Islands.

"The last time, it was a 727 in the '80s," he recalled, "and they took that plane apart to get it out of here."

All traffic at Peter O. Knight Airport was grounded for seven hours.

"I was supposed to leave about five minutes after that plane landed," said Ryan Gucwa, 29, a corporate pilot from Tampa. He was scheduled to pick up passengers at Tampa International and get them to Georgia on Friday afternoon. Instead, he caught a cellphone video of the C-17's amazing landing.

"It stopped about 6 feet from the end of the runway; any farther and it would have been grass," Gucwa said.

Hours later, Alper thought the takeoff would be impossible.

"It was going so slow I didn't think it was going to make it," she said.

Dozens of people stood outside the gated perimeter, forming an impromptu tailgate party, as the engines roared and the plane inched toward the sky. With about 400 feet to spare, the nose pulled up and the C-17 was back on course.

Marti Smith, 58, a nurse from Tampa, came just in time for takeoff.

"When he started moving, I started praying out loud," she said. "It was quite a show."

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Comments
Head-on crash kills three, injures two children in Zephyrhills

Head-on crash kills three, injures two children in Zephyrhills

ZEPHYRHILLS — Three people were killed and two children were seriously injured in a head-on collision that took place Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The crash took place about 7 p.m. on County Road 54, west of Chantel Drive.Elv...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Crossing guard admits to accidentally killing gopher tortoise in Dunedin

Crossing guard admits to accidentally killing gopher tortoise in Dunedin

A crossing guard turned himself in to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, saying he was the person seen on video running over a gopher tortoise at an elementary school on Saturday. Robert Dantschisch, 48, saw surveillance video from the sheriff’s o...
Published: 08/20/18
Robber wearing gas mask fires shot in ceiling of Pasco store, deputies say

Robber wearing gas mask fires shot in ceiling of Pasco store, deputies say

Deputies are searching for a man who held up a convenience store with a shotgun while wearing a gas mask, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.On Friday at around 9 p.m., deputies say a man robbed the Beacon Square Grocery in Holiday. Durin...
Published: 08/20/18
Manatee youth football coach accused of dealing drugs

Manatee youth football coach accused of dealing drugs

A youth football coach in Manatee County faces drug charges following his arrest on Thursday.According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, deputies pulled over Edgard Theliar, 29, at the 3100 block of 15th Street E around 4 p.m. after he ran a re...
Published: 08/20/18
400 years later, Spanish coin is clue in mysterious death

400 years later, Spanish coin is clue in mysterious death

Before detectives found it inside a car in Colorado, before a St. Petersburg surveillance camera captured it hanging from Christie New’s neck hours before she was gravely wounded, before it was salvaged from the bottom of the ocean, police believe th...
Published: 08/20/18
400 years later, Spanish coin is clue in mysterious death

400 years later, Spanish coin is clue in mysterious death

Before detectives found it inside a car in Colorado, before a St. Petersburg surveillance camera captured it hanging from Christie New’s neck hours before she was gravely wounded, before it was salvaged from the bottom of the ocean, police believe th...
Published: 08/20/18
North Carolina fugitives, charged with shooting at cops, found and arrested in Treasure Island

North Carolina fugitives, charged with shooting at cops, found and arrested in Treasure Island

TREASURE ISLAND — Two men on the run from law enforcement in North Carolina were found hiding in Treasure Island — armed with an AR-15, a machete and a pipe bomb, deputies said — leading to a standoff with a SWAT team that ended early Sunday morning....
Published: 08/20/18
Tampa holds a birthday vigil for Lillia Raubenolt, the young girl killed on Bayshore

Tampa holds a birthday vigil for Lillia Raubenolt, the young girl killed on Bayshore

Somewhere Over the Rainbow was the first song Lillia Raubenolt’s parents sang to her as a newborn, according to her uncle, John Reisinger."They were just so happy when she was born," he said.But on May 23, while the family was visiting Tampa from Ohi...
Published: 08/19/18
Man in Spring Hill airlifted to hospital with severe electrical burns

Man in Spring Hill airlifted to hospital with severe electrical burns

A man has been airlifted to a local hospital after suffering severe electrical burns while trimming trees in Spring Hill.In a release, Pasco County Fire Rescue said the man was working on a lift and was airborne in the 18000 Block of Skinner Dr. in S...
Published: 08/19/18
Clearwater police: Truck flips on U.S. 19, killing 40-year-old driver

Clearwater police: Truck flips on U.S. 19, killing 40-year-old driver

CLEARWATER — A 40-year-old man died after flipping his truck on U.S. 19 early Sunday morning, police reported.About 3:02 a.m., Michael Bellavia, 40, of Clearwater, was heading northbound on the highway, exiting at NE Coachman Road, according to the ...
Published: 08/19/18