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Let's take Trent Lott to Trent Lott.

I got a call the night before the flight. It went like this:

Ops: "Krup, need you for a mission tomorrow."

Me: "When?"

Ops: "0700 show."

Me: "What needs to be done?"

Ops: "Nothing, other pilot dropped out last minute, flight plan is done, everything's done, just show up for the brief."

Me: "Alright, see you in the morning."

I showed up and did the basic C-40A planning for a CONUS mission: Notams, weather and flight plan. The flight advisory said we were to pick up a lift from KADW (Andrews AFB) and bring them to KPQL (Trent Lott International). I'd never been there before, but Trent Lott is an international airport, 6,500-foot runway, so no worries. We confirmed the airfield knew we were coming, they had gas, and off we went.

I'm not the type of person who watches the news much, but if I'd have turned on the TV that day or read a newspaper, I would have known it was the anniversary of hurricane Katrina. Every politician from DC and parts unknown were making their pilgrimage to New Orleans for the anniversary. When we arrived at Andrews, I only then found out we were to pick up Senator Trent Lott and his entourage to transport them to KPQL. To my disappointment, Trent Lott never showed up, but we did board his entourage and about a dozen flag officers.

The flight was uneventful until the approach brief. As we descended through 12,000 feet, something did not feel right. Looking at the approach plate, I realized the airfield looked familiar. I had been to Trent Lott International before, as a T-34C IP during a VNAV, and we had flown an out-and-in. I did't remember much about the field except the runway had just been repaved with fresh asphalt.

I asked the pilot flying to level off and discontinue the approach, while I looked up some stuff. The IFR supp listed the runway-bearing strength for runway 17/35 as T60, or 60,000 pounds gross weight for our type landing gear. If you're not familiar, the C-40A is a nonstandard Boeing 737-700, and its zero fuel weight is around 90,000 pounds. We were at 110,000 pounds for landing. I think we were slightly overweight for the runway's capacity. I still couldn't believe we would be scheduled into a field that couldn't accommodate our aircraft. Using the Sat phone, I called the airfield manager.

Me: "Hey, this is Lt. Krupsky with JV670."

Airfield manager: "Good morning, we are expecting you. We have the limos and transportation for the DVs standing by."

Me: "Have you ever had a 737 land there?"

Airfield manager: "Oh, hell no!"

I had to slink back and ask the admiral's aide where the score of three stars and below would rather go, because Trent Lott was not an option. I still was oblivious that the upcoming traffic around Keesler was for the Katrina anniversary. I offered the passengers Mobile International or Keesler AFB, which were equidistant from Trent Lott. They chose Keesler AFB.

After landing at Keesler and RTB, we discussed how the holes almost lined up.

* Poor mission scheduling by NALO. You would think our scheduling authority would thoroughly screen airfields to make sure of basic suitability, but occasionally this gets overlooked.

* Poor oversight by the squadron. Because Ops assured me "everything's done," I took this to mean everything that I normally would do was done.

* Poor preflight planning by me. I allowed myself to become complacent and not rely on the preflight planning I had learned to use with unfamiliar fields.

I guess someone thought it would be neat to fly Trent Lott into the airfield that bears his name. The passengers actually wanted to go to Keesler but figured there was a highly classified reason we were going to Trent Lott. This flight should never have left for that airfield and no one, including myself, ever asked the question about airfield suitability. In the best case, we would have sunk the gear in the asphalt taxiing clear of the runway. Worst case? I really don't want to think about it.

We have so many preflight tools available to us that sometimes we only reserve them for the OCONUS missions. When I briefed the incident, everyone patted me on the back and said, "Great catch!" I wish I had caught it on preflight. I guess my luck bucket is a little lighter. I learned a valuable lesson about thorough preflight planning, good habit patterns, and how when it comes to airfields, the word "international" doesn't guarantee you @#$%.


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Author:Krupsky, Gary
Article Type:Personal account
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2010
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