Landing at the wrong Airport

NTSB, FAA investigating Southwest airport mix-up near Branson

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the Sunday evening incident in which a Southwest Airlines flight bound for the Branson Airport landed at a smaller one nearby.

How does a mixup like this occur? Wouldn’t something like this be caught by the pilot or the air traffic control for the airport?

If Branson Tower was open at the time, if they have TRACON, etc., it still really wouldn’t be our responsibility. The pilots landed on a runway what was not aligned with the heading they should have briefed on (not even close, in fact!). In fact, it was pretty much lined up with their previous flight path heading.

It is also possible that the pilots were communicating with ZKC (Kansas City Center) still, who would have been even less likely to notice. This isn’t the rarest of rare events, unfortunately, but it makes a good story.

And of course there have been very recent occurrences of airline flights landing at busy airports but never even communicating with tower control and thus never receiving a landing clearance. Oops. : )

How does this happen in a world with GPS? Isn’t there some system built into the plane’s course managament system or in the pilots’ check-off lists that includes verifying that you are where you are supposed to be?

I’d hate to think that planes have to depend on technology about as reliable as google maps when it’s fed a bad address and has to guess.

Complacency. And the Swiss cheese model. FMS and every other system don’t help if you don’t use them properly.

Thanks for the explanation.

Now that is very scary.

Fucking MapQuest!

About to take off, live video here:

Timemaster, ever imagine what it’s like to be the pilot in those situations after you come to a stop? It’s got to be the most sinking feeling possible.

Well yeah. I think they figured that out when they suddenly realized there wasn’t any runway left.

— Alan

I know of at least one occasion where it’s happened in the DC area, but this was more than 15 years ago, too.

Wasn’t there a Fedex plane that landed at an Air Force Base near St. Louis rather than St. Louis airport? Happened a month or two ago.

A couple of incidents involving large cargo jets landing at the wrong, too small airfields:

Modified 747 “Dreamlifter” lands at wrong airfield in Wichita

Air Force C-17 lands at wrong airport

I wonder how much this actually happens and we just don’t hear about. That the only reason we hear about it more nowadays is because of the internet and social media where everybody on the plane upon arriving at the wrong airport posts it to their Facebook and word spreads fast now.

Interesting views from those who fly for a living in this thread at From the same thread comes this link lists the number of wrong airport landings in commercial aviation.