WASHINGTON (March 27, 2014) — Two incidents in the U.S. where jets landed at the wrong airport have prompted the National Transportation and Safety Board to issue an alert to pilots that basically reminds them to land at the right airport.
The alert was reported on the Aviation Safety Network web site.
One Southwest Airlines flight to Branson, Mo., landed at the wrong airport, which had a shorter runway and the pilots only managed to avoid rolling off the runway after “a hard application of the brakes,” the alert said. The incident occurred January 12, 2014. The passenger jet from Chicago landed at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Branson instead of Branson Airport.
Upon finding out he was at the wrong airport, the pilot said, “Are you kidding?” according to recordings released this week.
In the other incident, a cargo Boeing 747 headed from New York City to an Air Force base in near Wichita, Kan., landed instead at a nearby airport whose runway was half as long as the destination airport.
Both incidents took place at night, and in both cases cabin crews said they could see the airport.
The NTSB pointed to a number of reasons such mistakes could be catastrophic: runways could be too short for the incoming plane, air traffic around the wrong airport won’t be aware of unscheduled incoming planes, and air traffic controllers may be unable to intervene in time to avoid mishaps.
The alert listed a number of things air crews can do to avoid landing at the wrong airport, such as maintaing “extra vigilance.” In other words, paying attention.