The Southwest Airlines pilots that landed at the wrong airport in Missouri have been grounded, the airline said.
Southwest Flight 4013 left from Chicago and was scheduled to stop in Branson Sunday evening before heading on to Dallas.
The Boeing 737-700 landed safely at the Taney County airport at about 6 p.m., but that's about seven miles north of the Branson Airport, where it was supposed to land.
The county airport is designed for smaller planes. It's longest runway is only about 3,700 feet, compared to the 7,100 foot runway typically used for commercial traffic at the Branson Airport.
In a statement, Southwest Airlines didn't give an explanation for the mistake, but said all the passengers and crew were safe and that the landing was uneventful.
Passenger Scott Schieffer said it was hardly uneventful.
"As soon as we touched down the pilot applied the brake very hard and very forcibly," said Schieffer, a 36-year-old attorney from Dallas. "I thought, `Well, this is a very short runway and this must be how he has to land.' I was wearing a seat belt 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."
When the plane stopped, Schieffer said the pilot said over the intercom; "Welcome to Branson." About 10 minutes later, the pilot told the passengers they had landed at the wrong airport.
At first Schieffer only considered what happened an inconvenience, but then someone pointed out the edge of the runway was maybe 100 feet away.
"It was surreal when I realized we could have been in real danger and instead of an inconvenience, it could have been a real tragedy," Schieffer said.
The passengers were taken by bus to the correct airport, where they were able to board another plane and continue on to Dallas.
The Boeing 737-700 took off from the small Missouri airport on Monday afternoon and headed to Tulsa.
Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King said Monday that the captain and first officer for Flight 4013 were removed from flying duties while the airline and federal aviation safety officials investigate the mistake.
King said the captain is in his 15th year flying for Southwest.
Jeff Bourk, executive director of Branson Airport, declined to speculate on why the plane landed at the wrong airport.
"I think the best thing to do is to leave that to Southwest to answer," Bourk said. "What I can tell you is our airport was functioning normally. The control tower was functioning normally."
Bourk said the pilot was in communication with the Branson Airport tower, and at approximately 6 p.m. was cleared to land at the Branson Airport. He said the plane landed at 6:09 p.m. at the Taney County airport.
Skies were clear at the time, and the temperature was in the 50s, Bourk said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
KDFW FOX 4
Main Station Directory:
Didn't find what you were looking for?