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Boeing cargo jet takes off from Wichita airport’s short runway

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Posted at 10:23 AM, Nov 21, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-21 14:29:43-05

(CNN) — A mammoth cargo plane that landed Wednesday at a small Kansas airport not built to accommodate it took off Thursday afternoon without incident. The Atlas Air 747 Dreamlifter used a runway that is far shorter than it normally requires for takeoff after, an airport spokeswoman said, engineers calculated that the takeoff would be safe.

Late Wednesday night, the plane, which was bound for McConnell Air Force Base from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, missed its mark by about 12 miles.

Instead of landing at the military airport on Wichita’s southeast side, it landed at the much-smaller, general-aviation Col. James Jabara Airport on the northeast side.

Jabara has no control tower and normally doesn’t handle jumbo jets.

The Atlas Air 747 Dreamlifter is a modified 747-400 passenger airplane that can haul more cargo by volume than any airplane in the world.

When fully loaded, the Dreamlifter needs a runway 9,199 feet long to take off, reports affiliate KWCH. The Jabara runway is 6,101 feet. The difference — more than half a mile.

But a spokeswoman for the airport authority, Valerie Wise, cited favorable weather on Thursday and the fact that much of the fuel had been used in the flight from JFK — which lightened the weight of the plane — for the conclusion that it was safe to take off on the shorter runway. “The engineers have been running calculations all night,” she said.

By mid-morning, a tug had moved the aircraft to where it needed to be and a new crew had arrived to fly the plane from Jabara to McConnell Air Force Base. The takeoff attempt is expected around noon (1 p.m. ET).

The plane, laden with cargo for Boeing, is owned by Boeing and operated by Atlas Air, said Bonnie Rodney, a spokeswoman for Atlas. She said an investigation has begun into how the plane landed at the wrong airport.

A spokeswoman for Boeing did not immediately return a call.

CNN’s Dave Alsup, Jake Carpenter and Justin Lear contributed to this report.