Southwest plane that landed at wrong airport gets back in the air

Last Updated Jan 13, 2014 5:05 PM EST

BRANSON, Mo. -- A Southwest Airlines flight took off Monday from a small airport in Missouri as federal authorities investigated why it landed at the wrong airport.

The Boeing 737-700 left around 3 p.m. Monday from M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Taney County. Southwest spokeswoman Michelle Agnew says the jet will travel to Tulsa, Okla., for fueling, then return to service.


 The pilot and first officer will be grounded while federal officials investigate the incident, Southwest said. The airline did not release their names.

The plane was involved in a strange mix-up Sunday when it landed at the wrong airport.  Flight 4013, carrying 124 passengers and five crew members, was headed from Chicago's Midway International Airport to Branson Airport in Missouri, with Dallas as its final destination.

However, the jet instead landed at another airport about 7 miles away that has only about half as long a runway.

Dallas-based Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the jet's arrival at Taney County Airport (also known as M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport) was uneventful and all customers and crew were safe. He didn't have information on why the plane went to the wrong airport.

Passengers disagreed about the nature of the landing, reports CBS Dallas station KTVT-TV.

"They said that we had stopped in like 3,300 feet, and usually I think they were saying that it should take 5,000 feet for a plane to stop,” passenger Shannon Spear told the station. "So, we were very lucky indeed, especially considering that there was a cliff at the end of the runway.

"Honestly, I thought the landing was a little bumpy,” added Spear. "We kind of pushed forward where we almost kind of hit our heads in the seat in front of us."

Runway_M Graham Clark-Taney County Airport Branson.jpg
A Google Earth view of the runway at M. Graham Clark-Taney County Airport in Branson, Mo.
Google Earth

Passengers were transported by ground to Branson Airport. Another Southwest jet flew them to Dallas on Sunday night.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said the agency is investigating the incident.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the plane's flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder were being brought back to Washington, D.C., for analysis. NTSB investigators will also be conducting interviews with the flight crew this week.

In a statement released Monday morning Southwest thanks first responders and ground operations staff who assisted passengers, and said the airline has reached out to each customer to apologize, and to offer refunds and credits to future travel.

The airline said it was continuing to look into the circumstances as to why the pilot landed several miles from his intended airport, and that they were cooperating with authorities in the investigation.

The website for M. Graham Clark Airport says its longest runway is 3,738 feet. Branson Airport's website says its runway is 7,140 feet long.

Flight-tracking website said the Southwest flight landed at 6:11 p.m. Sunday. It was partly cloudy and in the high 50s in Branson at that time.

"Our ground crew from the Branson airport arrived at the airport to take care of our customers and their baggage," Southwest spokesman Hawkins said.

It was the second time in less than two months that a large jet has landed at the wrong airport. 

In November, a Boeing 747 that was supposed to deliver parts to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., landed 9 miles north at Col. James Jabara Airport. That plane was flown by a two-person crew and had no passengers.