According to a United States Air Force report obtained by the Tampa Tribune, pilot error and fatigue played a role when a C-17 Globemaster III landed at Peter O. Knight airport instead of MacDill AFB in July 2012.
The report found that the plane arrived in Tampa after an over 10 hour flight. Originating from Rome, the crew had been through many mission changes in the days before and had flown to numerous destinations. The investigation also concluded that the pilot and co-pilot were operating at ‘reduced cognitive capacity’ due to fatigue and complexity of the tasks they’d been assigned.
Marine Gen. James Mattis attempted to explain the incident in an email to the Tampa Tribune saying, “It was just human error. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my time, and some were real doozies (worse than landing at the wrong airstrip). The Marine Corps kept their sense of humor throughout my checkered career and allowed me to move onward and upward.”
Fortunately the huge cargo plane was able to leave the small airport, located on Davis Island, on its own as the crew made the final journey to MacDill just 8 hours after arriving.
It is unclear whether the crew, based out of New Jersey with the 305th Air Mobility Wing, has faced any disciplinary action.