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Southwest flight lands at wrong airport on extremely short runway

A Southwest Airlines flight landed at the wrong airport and just missed going off an embankment and tumbling below on a highway. That’s because the runway wasn’t big enough to accommodate a Boeing 737-700 jet. The significantly shorter runway at Taney County airport is seven miles away from where the flight was due to land in Branson, Missouri, according to CNN News on Jan 13.

Southwest airlines flight lands at wrong airport with a runway that was too short. The plane made a safe landing, but the pilot welcomed the passengers to the wrong airport over the intercom.
Southwest airlines flight lands at wrong airport with a runway that was too short. The plane made a safe landing, but the pilot welcomed the passengers to the wrong airport over the intercom.
Wikimedia Commons

The pilot didn’t realize that he landed in the wrong airport because when the plane came to stop, he welcomed the passengers to Branson, Missouri. A few minutes went by and he came over the plane’s intercom to tell the passengers that they’ve landed in the wrong airport.

There were hints everywhere that the plane didn’t belong at this airfield as the aircraft towered over any other aircraft that was anywhere in sight. The airport wasn’t the bustling hub that you’d expect when accommodating flights with large numbers of passengers.

Flight 4013, which landed in the wrong place, had 124 passengers on board coming in from Chicago’s Midway Airport. This airport didn’t resemble Midway in traffic as it was fairly desolate in comparison.

Even the folks that lived around the airport recognized the sounds of engines that they don’t traditionally hear coming from this small airport. The Taney County airport usually has the small planes flying in and out, they don’t handle big jets.

“We’re used to hearing Cessnas land and take off,” said Jeffrey Engel, a neighbor of the airport. Another neighbor, Kevin Riley thought it was a military jet because it was so loud.

The pilot most likely saved the day with heavy braking because the plane stopped just 300-feet before the end of the runway. With regular braking the plane would have been in danger of tumbling over the embankment and dropping onto the busy U.S. Highway 65, which could have been a disaster.

No one was hurt, most of the passengers didn't know that they landed in the wrong place until the pilot came on the intercom to say a mistake was made. It is not known how the pilot made the mistake of landing at the wrong airport, the incident is under investigation today.