Lost Southwest Pilots' Fate Determined
Southwest Airlines has completed its investigation into an incident in January when a 737 crew landed at the wrong airport, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday. The captain is now back at work and the first officer has chosen to retire, the airline said. Airline spokesperson Brandy King said Southwest is continuing to work with the NTSB, which has not yet released its final report. The airline declined to say which pilot was at the controls when the 737 touched down at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Hollister, Mo., about seven miles from the Branson airport that was its planned destination. Both pilots had been on paid leave since the Jan. 12 incident.
According to the NTSB, the captain has been with Southwest since 1999 and has about 16,000 flight hours, including about 6,700 hours as a captain on the 737. The captain said this was his first flight into Branson Airport. The first officer had been with Southwest since 2001 and has about 25,000 flight hours. The first officer said he had flown into Branson Airport once before, but during daylight hours. The pilots told investigators the approach had been programmed into their flight management system, but when they saw the airport beacon and runway lights of the Downtown Airport, they mistakenly identified it as Branson Airport. They said they flew a visual approach and didn't realize they were at the wrong airport until they had landed, at about 6:10 p.m. local time. The flight had been cleared to land on Runway 14, which is 7,140 feet long, but the runway they landed on is only 3,738 feet. They braked heavily to bring the aircraft to a stop and then advised the Branson Airport tower they had landed at the wrong airport. No injuries or damage were reported.