I started on a post to tell you what’s been going on since I got home from Calgary almost 2 weeks ago, but that will take a while, so first I’m going to tell you about a surprise visitor to Whitehorse. On May 23rd at 07:10, a Nippon Cargo Boeing 747-8F en route from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to Tokyo with a fuel stop in Anchorage declared an emergency after an indicator in the cockpit showed that there may be a fire in the lower cargo hold. It was decided that Whitehorse was the best place to land to check it out. This would be the first 747 to land here since two Korean Air 747s were forced to land after the world-changing terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
The massive freighter, registration JA13KZ, landed at 7:29, with two of the airport fire/crash trucks standing by. I was one of the first non-official people to arrive at the airport, and a photo like the one below but taken with my phone was broadcast by CBC in their first report of the incident on Twitter at 8:12.
A large complement of emergency personnel including city fire crews and an ambulance were soon on the scene, and firefighters began going through the cargo hold. Nippon Cargo officials quickly said that the fire warning was an electrical/computer malfunction, but crews were making sure.
Looking for some better photo angles, I walked around much of the airport perimeter while the plane was being checked out initially.
At 9:40, the aircraft was fired up and moved to a spot that was more suitable for longer-term parking.
Examination of the cargo continued until about noon, and eventually a lot of the cargo was removed from the plane.
The next evening at 7:24 pm, the aircraft resumed its flight. The outboard engines of the 747 are beyond the normal part of the runway that’s hit by jet blast, and a fair bit of damage was done to the runway. The 13-minute video I shot includes the conversation between the pilot and tower, and right at the end you can hear a service truck driver say that pieces of concrete have been blown right off the runway, and tower’s response: “we expected that”.
As was the situation in 2001, there’s more to this story than what’s been officially reported. In this case, it appeared to some of us who had been watching the event unfold that some of the Nippon cargo was still here after the plane left. I’ve heard no explanation for that.