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Southwest Flight Lands at Wrong Missouri Airport


Updates last paragraph with comment from pilots' union spokesman, and jet returning to service.

Frame grab provided by KSPR-TVPhotograph by KSPR-TV/AP PhotoFrame grab provided by KSPR-TVA Southwest (LUV) flight landed at the wrong airport in Branson, Mo., on Sunday night, touching down on a runway that was too short to comfortably accommodate the Boeing 737.

Southwest said it sent its ground crew from Branson to the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport to assist the 124 passengers and five crew members on Flight 4013 after the landing. Six miles north of Branson’s main airport, the smaller airfield handles corporate charters and personal planes. Its runway is 3,738 feet, compared with the 7,140 feet at Branson Airport, according to AirNav, an aviation data site.

The company had no information on why the crew landed at the wrong airport. Spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said in an e-mail that an investigation was ongoing. A passenger on the flight, Scott Schieffer, told ABC News that he smelled burning rubber after the plane stopped. “The brakes were applied forcefully,” Schieffer said. “I was glad I had my seat belt on.” Like cars, most commercial planes like the 737-700 have more braking power than they need in the course of a routine flight.

Two months ago, a Boeing (BA) cargo jet that ferries 787 Dreamliner parts landed at the wrong airport in Wichita, Kan. That incident was also a night landing and highlighted the tricky approaches some destinations with multiple airports can present a pilot.

The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are both investigating the incident. A spokesman for the Southwest Airline Pilots’ Association declined to comment, citing the NTSB investigation. Southwest returned the jet to commercial service today.

Bachman is an associate editor for Businessweek.com.

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