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Southwest Airlines' Landing Mix-Up Could Have Been Super Scary

January 13, 2014
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230788

Imagine if you were on a flight -- any usual flight you might take for business or pleasure -- to find out that your plane had mistakenly landed at the wrong airport. It's a big inconvenience, especially if you have a connecting flight or someone waiting to pick you up at the airport.

This exact situation happened this weekend when a Southwest Airlines flight departing from Chicago's Midway airport landed at Taney County airport in Missouri. Problem is, the plane was scheduled to land at Branson Airport about seven miles away.

"Welcome to Branson," the pilot announced to passengers over the intercom once the plane landed. Um, not exactly, sir. After a moment the pilot apologized and said the plane has landed at the wrong airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have launched separate investigations into what caused the incorrect landing.

Despite the inconvenience to passengers, the mix-up points to larger security and safety issues. If flight traffic controllers were confused, could flight paths have been crossed? That's a serious problem.

More tangible is how the runway at Taney County airport is about half the length of the one at Branson Airport. The pilot was able to brake hard and stop the plane, a Boeing 737-700, about 300 feet from the end of the runway. If he hadn't the plane could have blown past the runway, down an embankment and onto U.S. Highway 65, as CNN pointed out. 

Related: How One Traveler Woke Up in the Dark and Trapped Alone Inside an Airplane