Hahaha, I read that this morning before coming here. Made me smile reading it and now seeing it here too :)
It's another example of how automated technology even lulls highly skilled pilots into complacency. Unless the weather was at minimums the monkey flying that thing should have easily had a perception of the runway length and panorama surrounding the runways to at least cause him to double check things. Instead he probably relied too much on instrument navigation and left his common sense in the cargo area.
Without question it's a BIG plane that needs plenty of runway. What's not explained in the story is there were plenty of untapped options available to get it back off the ground.
Weight, temperature, and short field takeoff skills were reserved options. The article says that HQ did the calculations to determine it could take off safely. If they had determined it was marginal they could have:
1) Drained fuel from the tanks to lessen weight.
2) Wait for a cooler temperature for liftoff time.
3) Wait for stronger headwinds.
3) Unload the cargo there then truck it to its final destination. Then revisit 1 an 2.
4) Ignore all the above and ask the pilot how polished his short field takeoff skills are.
5) But if the cost of having that machine sitting idol on the ground waiting for better options to happen was too costly they could have ignored all of the above and get an Alaskan or northern Canadian bush plane pilot who is confronted with overweight loads and short takeoff fields regularly to go down there and get it out for them ;)
Flying by the seat of one's pants, the only way I know, is becoming a lost art in an overly technical world. To many pilots these days are being trained as systems managers with less emphasis on the plane becoming an extension of oneself like a sixth sense.
Opportunity for a distracting story and to reminisce:
My worst situation I was ever in was an uphill gradient in a short field takeoff situation. There was a 6 foot obstacle (fence) at end of strip followed by another 50 foot obstacle (hydro power lines) just beyond that, from a soft field (from previous days of rain), nearly full fuel, 2 full weight adults, pretty much at maximum weight capacity. At the time I was in training, instructor (very highly skilled) asks me to produce the calculations as to whether or not we could do it. Calculations said it wasn't a good idea. He asks me if I agree. I said I won't know if I don't try!
Had to abort first 2 tries but on third attempt I got just enough airspeed from ground effect, yanked it over the fence, ducked under the power lines, then levelled out over the farmer's field beyond to garner enough speed to climb safely.
From my peripheral vision I was watching my instructors expression changing from very serious to a grin. Without looking at him, sensing his approval, I asked if we can go back and do it again, sooooooo much fun! From that day on he taught my advanced flying skills that trainees typically do not get introduced to. I am grateful, they came in handy many times afterwards.
Thanks for posting this here today lawman! Gave me time to reminisce about my first love -- flying free.
Bah, button pushers. They can't think any more. They won't have any exciting stories to share with their grandchildren to keep the human spirit of adventure alive. Except for maybe those who haven't lost the ability to laugh at themselves like the monkeys flying that 747.
Gotta go. I called LG a while ago to ask them to brew me another coffee in my kitchen. I think it's ready.