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Southwest pilots grounded after flight from Chicago lands at wrong airport in Branson, Missouri

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
FAA investigating Southwest plane that landed at wrong airport Chicago plane lands at wrong airport Southwest flight from Chicago lands at wrong airport

The FAA is investigating an incident in which a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago's Midway Airport landed at the wrong airport in Missouri.

The flight left Chicago and was bound for Branson Airport Sunday night, but aviation officials say it landed at a county airport about seven miles away -- with a runway about half the size of the intended runway at Branson Airport.

The plane was supposed to land on a runway more than 7,000 feet long. Instead, it landed on a runway 3,700 feet long.

Authorities said it was not an emergency landing, and no one was hurt. One hundred twenty-four passengers were on board.

On Monday afternoon, Southwest announced that the pilots have since been grounded and that the plane's captain and first officer were removed from flying duties while the airline and federal aviation safety officials investigate the mistake.

Officials in Missouri were not saying why or even how the pilots landed at the wrong airport. Southwest Airlines also did not say anything, except that the pilot in command landed safely. They called the landing routine.

One pilot told Eyewitness News that even for experience pilots, it's easy to end up at the wrong airport at night.

"It was pretty rough landing. We are all moving pretty close to the seats as we were landing because the runway, I guess, was too short," a passenger said.

"I was surprised when they came on the intercom and were, like, we're at the wrong airport, and so I think it was kind of a shock to everybody," said one passenger.

Passengers reported the pilot had to brake hard to prevent going over the edge of the runway and then said it smelled like burned rubber.

All of the passengers and their bags were eventually taken to the Branson Airport by bus.

The plane remained in Branson Monday morning and was expected to fly out later in the day.

This is second time in two months that a large plane has landed at the wrong airport.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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