Southwest Pilots Grounded After Landing Mistake (Updated)
Southwest Airlines says a third person on the flight deck of Boeing 737-700 that landed at the wrong airport in Missouri on Sunday was a company dispatcher who was authorized to be in the jump seat for the flight. The airline didn't elaborate on why the dispatcher was up front but said employees are permitted to fly in the jump seat with the consent of the pilots. Meanwhile the airline grounded both pilots of the flight on Monday pending an investigation. Both the NTSB and FAA are also investigating the incident. The flight had departed from Chicago Midway and was scheduled to land at Branson Airport, but the crew erroneously landed at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport, in the town of Hollister, about six miles north of Branson. The pilots had to brake hard to stop before reaching the runway end, where an embankment slopes down to U.S. Highway 65. The captain has been with Southwest for 15 years, and the first officer has 13 years experience, according to an airline spokesman. Nobody was hurt in the incident.
The passengers were bussed to the Branson airport if that was their destination, and Southwest brought another airplane in on Sunday evening to take continuing passengers on to Dallas Love Field. The 737 departed from the Clark airport on Monday afternoon, and was flown to Tulsa, Okla., for fueling. All 124 passengers on the flight will receive a refund and travel credit "as a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience," Southwest said in a statement. The NTSB said it has secured the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder from the aircraft, and investigators will interview the crew this week.