Jim Salter News
Southwest Plane that Landed at Wrong Airport Back in the Air
January 13, 2014
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  • The Southwest Airlines jet that landed at the wrong Missouri airport is now heading back into service.

    The Boeing 737 took off around 3 p.m. Monday from M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Taney County. Southwest spokeswoman Michelle Agnew says the jet will travel to Tulsa, Okla., for fueling, then return to service.

    Southwest Airlines Flight 4013 was traveling from Chicago Midway Airport bound for Branson Airport Sunday night. It landed instead at the smaller airport, 7 miles away.

    No one was hurt but a passenger described the landing as abrupt. The runway at M. Graham Clark airport is a little more than half as long as the Branson Airport.

    Southwest says the pilot and first officer were removed from flying pending an investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

    After passengers were let off the jet Sunday evening, they noticed that the airliner had come dangerously close to the end of the runway, where it could have tumbled down a steep embankment if it had left the pavement.

    “As soon as we touched down, the pilot applied the brake very hard and very forcibly,” said passenger Scott Schieffer, a Dallas attorney who was among the 124 passengers aboard Southwest Flight 4013 from Chicago’s Midway Airport to the Branson airport. “I was wearing a seatbelt, but I was lurched forward because of the heavy pressure of the brake. You could smell burnt rubber, a very distinct smell of burnt rubber as we were stopping.”

    Branson Airport has a runway that is more than 7,100 feet long — a typical size for commercial traffic. The longest runway at Taney County Airport is only slightly more than 3,700 feet because it is designed for small private planes.

    After the jet stopped, a flight attendant welcomed passengers to Branson, Schieffer said. Then, after a few moments, “the pilot came on and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to tell you we landed at the wrong airport.’”

    At first, Schieffer said, he considered it only an inconvenience. But once he got off the plane, someone pointed to the edge of the runway, which he estimated as about 100 feet away.