Air Force C-17 pilot lauded for airmanship in Kandahar emergency landing

By J.P. LAWRENCE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 30, 2020

KABUL, Afghanistan — The pilot of a U.S. C-17 cargo jet averted disaster during an emergency landing in Kandahar last week, an Afghan airport official said.

The Globemaster III plane skidded down the runway with its nose landing gear up at Ahmad Shah Baba International Airport on the morning of Oct. 18, Massoud Pashtoon, the airport’s director, said Thursday.

“The pilot did an excellent job and the damage was less (than it could have been) to the aircraft and the runway,” Pashtoon said.

A video posted online shows the C-17, which has a maximum payload of 85 tons, landing on the runway on its rear wheels while keeping the nose up until it lost speed. Pashtoon confirmed the authenticity of the video.

Sparks and small flames appeared from below the belly when the fuselage first touched the runway, but they were quickly extinguished when the aircraft stopped moving. No injuries were reported and the jet appeared to have suffered only superficial damage.

Enemy activity was not involved and an investigation is ongoing, said a statement on Twitter by Col. Sonny Leggett, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. The statement did not name the pilot in command.


The plane had reported technical problems and was diverted in midair to Kandahar, Pashtoon said.

The emergency landing left the C-17 stranded. The airport did not have the machinery needed to take the aircraft off the runway, which led to a civilian flight shutdown for four days, Pashtoon said.

The airport normally receives five to seven civilian flights each day. When flights resumed, the airport handled about 1,600 passengers who had been stuck in Kabul or Kandahar, Pashtoon said.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

Twitter: @jplawrence3

In this YouTube screenshot, a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III makes an emergency landing at Ahmad Shah Baba International Airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Oct. 18, 2020, with the nose landing gear still up.