Accessibility/Mobile Features
Skip Navigation
Skip to Content
Editorial News
Business
Classified Sites

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

NTSB: Airline pilots who landed at wrong Missouri airport were confused by runway lights

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2014 file photo, Southwest Airlines Flight 4013 sits at the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Hollister, Mo. The plane was supposed to land at the nearby Branson Airport on Sunday evening, but instead landed at Clark Airport, also known as Taney County Airport, which has a much shorter runway than at Branson, about 7 miles away. The plane's pilots have told investigators they were confused by the small airport's runway lights, believing it to be a larger airport in nearby Branson, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Springfield News-Leader, Valerie Mosley, File)

Enlarge Image

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2014 file photo, Southwest Airlines Flight 4013 sits at the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Hollister, Mo. The plane was supposed to land at the nearby Branson Airport on Sunday evening, but instead landed at Clark Airport, also known as Taney County Airport, which has a much shorter runway than at Branson, about 7 miles away. The plane's pilots have told investigators they were confused by the small airport's runway lights, believing it to be a larger airport in nearby Branson, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Springfield News-Leader, Valerie Mosley, File)

WASHINGTON - Southwest Airlines pilots who recently landed at the wrong airport in Missouri have told investigators they were confused by the small airport's runway lights, believing it to be a larger airport in nearby Branson, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday.

The pilots of Southwest Flight 4013 from Chicago's Midway Airport said in interviews with investigators that they had programmed the Boeing 737 flight management system for the Branson airport, NTSB said. But as they were approaching to land at night last Sunday, they first saw the airport beacon and bright runway lights of Graham Clark Downtown Airport, located in Hollister, Mo., and mistakenly identified it as the Branson airport, which is 7 miles away.

The captain had not previously landed in Branson, and the first officer had previously landed there once, and that was during the daytime, NTSB said in an update on the incident. They didn't realize until the plane touched down that they were at the wrong airport, the NTSB said.

During the landing approach, the pilots contacted the Branson control tower. They were told by controllers they were 15 miles from their target. But the pilots responded that they had the airfield in sight. Controllers then cleared the plane for a visual approach to land on Branson runway 14. That means the pilots were relying on what they could see rather than automation to orient the plane.

Instead, the midsized airliner with 124 passengers on board landed on the Downtown Airport runway, which is half as long as the Branson runway. The runways are oriented in a similar direction. Passengers later described the plane coming to an extremely hard stop just short of a ravine at the end of the runway, and the smell of burnt rubber.

NTSB said the pilots "confirmed that they utilized heavy braking to bring the aircraft to a stop."

Besides the pilots, NTSB said investigators also interviewed a Southwest dispatcher, who was on the flight, riding in the jump seat, and listened to the cockpit voice recorder. Investigators have also begun to analyze the plane's flight data recorder, which contains about 27 hours of recorded data from the jet's computer systems.

The captain has been with Southwest since 1999 and has about 16,000 flight hours, including about 6,700 hours as a captain on the 737. The first officer has been with Southwest since 2001 and has about 25,000 flight hours.

Instances of commercial jets landing at the wrong airport are unusual, but not unheard of, according to pilots and aviation safety experts. Usually the pilots are flying a visual approach in clear weather.

The instances also typically involve low-traffic airports situated close together with runways aligned to the same or similar compass points.

The incident in Missouri is the second time in two months that a large jet has landed at the wrong airport.

In November, a freight-carrying Boeing 747 that was supposed to deliver parts to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., landed nine miles north at Col. James Jabara Airport. The company that operated the flight later said in a training video that the crew was skeptical about the plane's automation after the co-pilot's flight display had intermittent trouble, and the pilot chose to fly visually when he spotted the brightly lit runway at Jabara.

Last year, a cargo plane bound for MacDill Air Force base in Tampa, Fla., landed without incident at the small Peter O. Knight Airport nearby. An investigation blamed confusion identifying airports in the area, and base officials introduced an updated landing procedure.

___

Follow Joan Lowy on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/AP_Joan_Lowy

  • Rate this Rate This Star Icon
  • This article has not yet been rated.
  • We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high. If you thought it was well written, do the same. If it doesn’t meet your standards, mark it accordingly.

    You can also register and/or login to the site and join the conversation by leaving a comment.

    Rate it yourself by rolling over the stars and clicking when you reach your desired rating. We want you to tell us what you think of our articles. If the story moves you, compels you to act or tells you something you didn’t know, mark it high.

Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 0 Commentscomment icon

You can comment on most stories on brandonsun.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is register and/or login and you can join the conversation and give your feedback.

There are no comments at the moment. Be the first to post a comment below.

Post Your Commentcomment icon

Comment
  • You have characters left

The Brandon Sun does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. Comments are moderated before publication. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Brandon Sun Business Directory
Submit a Random Act of Kindness
Why Not Minot?
Welcome to Winnipeg

Social Media

Canadian Mortgage Rates