Doolin Ferry Co/Facebook

Crew members of western Ireland's Doolin Ferry Co. were headed to Inis Oirr, a small island in Galway Bay, on Monday afternoon when they spotted something bright orange floating in the water.

"First I had a feeling of fear, (wondering) if there was people in difficulty 'cause we could only see about a meter of the bow sticking out of the water," Tom Noel, one of the crew members, said in an email to The Virginian-Pilot Thursday. "Then once we got closer and could see the amount of growth on it, I knew it was a long time in the water and that it was only a danger to navigation."

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An Omni Air International Boeing 767-300 sits on the runway after catching fire at Shannon Airport, Ireland August 15, 2019 in this image obtained from social media. (Reuters/Charles Pereira)

DUBLIN (Reuters) - An aircraft that regularly carries U.S. troops through Ireland's Shannon Airport caught fire shortly before it was due to take off on Thursday, national broadcaster RTE reported, forcing the suspension of flights at the airport.

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(U.S Air Force/1st Class Joshua Maund)

Editor's Note: This article by Gina Harkins originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Air Force Capt. Forrest "Cal" Lampela was about to put the aircraft landing gear down in Shannon, Ireland, eight hours into a flight. If all had gone according to plan, he and his C-17 Globemaster III crew should have been more than halfway over the Atlantic.

He couldn't see the runway because of dense fog, catching a glimpse of it from only 100 feet above the ground — the absolute minimum altitude to which the large transport aircraft can descend before its pilot must either call for a landing or to abort approach.

Somewhere below, an ambulance stood by, waiting to pick up a sailor who had been wounded in combat and was in critical condition.

"I was a little bit afraid of where the ambulance was going to be because I didn't want him to try to run up on the jet while we still had engines running, because the fog was that bad," Lampela said.

He recalls it as "the most challenging landing that I've ever done." But on top of dangerous, foggy conditions, Lampela and the crew, call sign Reach 445, had just entered a country where they had not received diplomatic clearance before touching down.

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