Southwest pilots confused by lights of wrong US airport
WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The pilots of a Southwest Airlines plane that landed at the wrong airport in Missouri this week told investigators they mistook the bright runway lights of a smaller airport for their intended destination at Branson Airport, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Friday.
The pilots told NTSB investigators they did not realise they were at the wrong airport until they had landed on late Sunday, which required heavy braking to get the Boeing 737-700 with 124 passengers aboard stopped on the shorter-than-expected runway, the NTSB said in a statement.
Southwest has suspended the two pilots from flying. The jet landed at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport instead of at Branson Airport, the main commercial air strip near Branson, which has a much longer runway. The airports are about 11km apart.
The captain, who has worked for Southwest for 15 years and has about 16,000 flight hours, told investigators it was his first flight into Branson. The first officer, who has been with the airline since 2001, told the NTSB it was his second flight into Branson, but the previous one was during daylight hours.