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Water salute for Japan Airlines Dreamliner goes awry at Tampa International Airport (w/video)

TAMPA — Well, it was a nice gesture.

The execution, however, was definitely lacking when a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner taxied toward the Tampa International Airport terminal on Thursday evening.

Two airport fire trucks were stationed on each side of the plane. Firefighters used cannons to shoot water into the air, creating a liquid archway that the aircraft taxied through. It's a ceremony TIA and other airports use to honor special airplanes and special occasions.

This time, however, the result was not so honorable: The plane's right wing tip smacked one of the water cannons.

The fire truck was parked too close to the plane on the taxiway, said airport spokeswoman Janet Zink. She said the boom broke a light on the edge of the right wing.

"It was dangling," Zink said of the busted light.

The plane landed about 8 p.m. Thursday and was a charter carrying the Japanese national men's soccer team. Japan was scheduled to play a friendly against Costa Rica at Raymond James Stadium on Monday night in preparation for the World Cup this month in Brazil.

That's why a Japanese TV crew ended up recording the incident. The video appeared to show the right wing tip getting caught beneath the water cannon's boom and dipping slightly. Then, as the plane moved past, the entire wing was released, causing it to spring up and shudder.

Zink said that the damage to the plane was minor and that the wing was fixed. The plane took off about 6:30 p.m. Monday. It had been scheduled to depart early Friday, with the Japanese soccer team scheduled to leave later on another flight.

"It was fixed in consultation with the Japan Airlines maintenance team and Boeing," she said, "to determine what needed to be done and to get it ready to take off again."

Zink could not say how much it cost to fix the Dreamliner, which costs $200 million to $300 million. She also couldn't say who will pay for the damage.

"We definitely have coverage for this sort of thing," Zink said. "The insurance companies will figure out how it's going to be paid for."

The "water arch salute" is a common ceremony at airports. TIA holds the ceremony about six times a year, Zink said. In this instance, the airport was honoring the arrival of both its first Dreamliner and its first flight from Japan Airlines.

The fire trucks are operated by Tampa Fire Rescue, which is under contract with the airport. TIA is investigating what went wrong and isn't planning any ceremonies soon.

"We're suspending all water cannon salutes," Zink said, "until we can make sure this never happens again."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at or (813) 226-3404. Follow @jthalji on Twitter.