Officials Investigate Low Altitude Incident On Southwest Airlines Flight


On Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it was investigating a Southwest Airlines flight that triggered a low altitude alert during a 9-mile approach to Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport.

The incident occurred early Wednesday on a flight from Las Vegas to Oklahoma City. According to reports, the Southwest Boeing 737-800 was flying at an altitude of 525 feet above the ground while on a 9-mile approach to the airport. The low-altitude alert caught the attention of air traffic control.

“Southwest 4069, low altitude alert. You good out there?” asked the controller, according to audio from The pilots responded, indicating they were going around, and the aircraft landed safely.

In a statement, Southwest addressed the incident noting, “Nothing is more important to Southwest than the Safety of our Customers and Employees. Southwest is following its robust Safety Management System and is in contact with the Federal Aviation Administration to understand and address any irregularities with the aircraft’s approach to the airport.”

The incident marks the latest in a series of mishaps involving the carrier in recent months. Federal investigators are also looking into a May 25 flight in which a Southwest aircraft experienced a “dutch roll” at 34,000 feet, as well as a flight in April where a Southwest aircraft came within 400 feet of the Pacific Ocean.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


    • You got that right. You have no idea how profound your words are. Just look at how the controller responded. It’s dumbfounding. The aviation world in in for a world of hurt.

      • Just this AM, I was listening to a program about why the President’s “500K EV charging stations by 2030” claim had only produced 7 after several years (sic). The problem is that the legislation REQUIRES an onerous litmus test of DEI based requirements for any company that wants to do this. NUTTY! Hard to say if this controller is involved in such requirements but he sure needs some retraining on his radio work. Wonder if the FAA will investigate THAT? He might have had just one chance to save the jet; fortuitously, it worked out THIS time

        • Red, yellow, black, white, male, female or someone in between, that controller was pitch perfect. He had one chance to save that jet and he did it by the book. He called their flight number and announced a low altitude alert which is all that was required of him. But in very classy, collegial late night ATC speak he went beyond the call of duty and queried of them if they were “good” up there.

          Don’t drink and write, Larry.

        • As I recall, the chattering class made a huge deal about $600+ toilet seats bought by the government with tax dollars. Commence the scolding… But the charger debacle = crickets from the chatterers. Easy to figure out why.

          • The seats were cheap; it was the entire fiberglass enclosure (including the bowl) which the actual seat fastened to.

            The aircraft was being retrofitted as part of an extended life program. The high cost included spreading the costs of the mold over only a handful of finished units.

        • The actual phraseology for this is, LOW ALTITUDE ALERT (call sign), CHECK YOUR ALTITUDE IMMEDIATELY.

  1. Entertain this scenario, both pilots fell asleep beiefly. just after midnite, dark out,
    twr msaw goes off, maybe the aircraft low alt alert goes off about the same time.
    chime in cockpit, , startle them awake. plane in selected descent mode.
    not sure if on visual approach?, but should have had a inst approach input fms for back up course and glidepath info. Scary. Come on southwest, we expect better.
    Also the hawaii lihue plunge from 1000 to 400 ft above the water.
    What would herb or colleen have to say. Will be interesting the ntsb reports
    and the pilots background and training.

  2. On the relatively flat plain of OKC, an altitude of 500 AGL on a visual or precision approach should normally occur inside of 2 miles from touchdown on a nominal 3-degree GS, not 9 miles out. Begs the questions: What were these “cowboys” doing? Did they both nod off on final? Did they get a LAWS warning in the cockpit? What is Southwest hiring these days? Looking forward to the NTSB report.

  3. OKC has some very tall antennas not far from the airport out in that direction. Also, this is a more frequent occurrence than most folks know. Some years back, before retirement, SWA, night, but good vis, on a visual approach to BNA from the NW. He had the airport about 20 out. Slow, no other traffic, cleared him for a visual. In front of him about 8 miles was a smaller airport John Tune. Almost immediately his encoder started showing descent. It was getting too low really for where he was. I didn’t want to embarrassed him on frequency. I just said, “SWA, you’re looking at BNA still right….12 to 1 o’clock about 13 miles. A delay and a yes response. The encoder then began a climb back up two thousand or so feet. Smyrna to the SE of BNA, one of their runways same alignment as one of BNAs, at least twice while I was at BNA air carriers began an approach to there. When I was at ORD, I would work out with a Delta pilot. He said you couldn’t be a Delta Chief pilot unless you had landed at least once at the wrong airport.

    • THAT is why the USAF closed the runway at Lowry AFB south of the old Stapleton in Denver in the late 60’s. Airliners kept trying to land there when landing to the north.

  4. Delta landed at Biggs Army Airfield a few years ago when on approach into KELP. DELTA = “Don’t Ever Land There Again”

    • The cautionary tale I received as a new hire was that American did the same thing (would have been forty years ago now). The crew took off again and made the three minute trip to KELP. One problem, though…ACARS was quite new then and it ‘tattled’ on them.

  5. Went to Kansas City on a Friday
    By Saturday I had seen a thing or two
    Counted 20 gas buggies going by themselves
    Almost every time I took a walk
    And when I put my ear to a bell telephone
    A strange woman started to talk…

    She said I know it is flat where you at
    But 500 feet is lower than a bat

  6. The examples noted above are only the ones we know about. SWA appears to have some serious training problems and cockpit discipline problems.

  7. Union pilots and union controllers under the thumb of an omnipotent federal government. Sum Ting Wong.

  8. Did Wi Too Low get a new job? I thought he was done after that SFO debacle.
    Or was it Ho Li Fook?
    Not sure.

  9. I guess I expect too much for my $300 airfare from Las Vegas to OKC. I expect a sterile cockpit below 10,000 feet, I expect that an ATP could, and would calculate that he should be 300 feet above the threshold for every mile in distance he is away from touchdown. I expect every item from every checklist to be accomplished correctly, every time. I expect a stabilized approach, every time, or I expect a go-around. I expect an ATP driving a 175 passenger airplane to know EXACTLY where the airplane is in today’s world, every time. Actually, I expect both ATPs to know that. And, I expect a well-paid, well-trained air traffic controller to correctly announce a Terrain Alert every time…. there is no higher priority duty at the time… and the phraseology used by the controller here was crap! He/she should have said, “LOW ALTITUDE ALERT, SOUTHWEST FORTY SIXTY NINE, CHECK YOUR ALTITUDE IMMEDIATELY, THE M-V-A IN YOUR AREA IS TWO THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED.” (or whatever the MVA was in that location). “You good out there” is not what I would expect, and is not what I’m paying for as a taxpayer. This is the third “Low Altitude” incident for Southwest in the last few weeks! I expect every Captain and First Officer, in every airliner, on every flight to do it by the book! That’s what saves lives, and that’s what I’m paying for! Corner-cutting, BS-ing in the cockpit below 10,000, not following checklists, and sloppy airmanship is unacceptable. It’s a fact I don’t know which, if any of these sloppy habits happened here, but something went awry. It’s a full time highly paid, highly responsible job. We, as passengers are paying to fly in the safest aviation system in the world, and right now I don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. Am I unreasonable?

  10. Not necessarily, depends on if you hold yourself to those same standards. But to expect the perfection you demand of your fellow ugly-bags-of-mostly-salt-water, at that price-point, might be considered unreasonable. But don’t worry, it won’t be too long before those bags are replaced by AI-automation. Will that make you happy?

  11. Easy one to figure out. Look at the chart. PWA (Wiley Post) is eight miles NNW with the same runway configuration as OKC. They were on final for runway 13 at PWA, hence the ‘go-around’ comment when they were called out. SWA has done it before, like landing at the wrong airport in Missouri a few years ago. Not much to sensationalize or investigate here, other than why did the crew acquire the wrong airport.