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elbanditoroso's avatar

Southwest Airlines landed at the wrong airport - what happens to the pilot(s)?

Asked by elbanditoroso (22141points) January 13th, 2014

Last night, instead of landing at Branson (MO) airport, the pilots landed (presumably by accident) at the Taney County airport (downton Branson), that has a runway about half as long.

What happens to the pilots of the 737, who clearly screwed up? Are they fired for incompetence? “Re-educated”? Do they have to re-take their navigation class?

Of course, this could have been MUCH worse – but what’s the punishment for landing at the wrong airport?

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13 Answers

Seek's avatar

Not enough information.

Was there an equipment failure? Most aspects of flight are automated these days. Perhaps someone programmed in the flight incorrectly. I don’t know who is responsible for inputting navigational information on planes like that. Was there any actual harm done?

A lot of people want to grab a torch and pitchfork and start screaming BURN THEM! but seriously, no harm no foul, amirite? They didn’t end up landing in the Mississippi River. They landed at an airport a few miles away from the other airport – which could have happened anyway had there been inclement weather at Branson.

boffin's avatar

How does the saying go. “Any landing you can walk away from…”

tom_g's avatar

Like @Seek_Kolinahr said, there isn’t enough information. But what is more concerning to me is that if anything happens to these pilots (lose their job or get suspended or something), it will likely be to appease the public’s love of punishment. Again, while difficult to say without information, it is unlikely that these pilots need more motivation to get it right next time.

JLeslie's avatar

Interesting. That would mean that for a short time the plane was off course. I thought all commercial flights have a set course they fly. I don’t know exactly how that is monitored, but ground control would be receiving an unexpected flight wouldn’t they?

I assume it is absent mindedness! Some sort of human error, or the public does not have all the information and there was a specific reason they landed at the other airport. They didn’t fly badly, they just went to the wrong place. Still, it should be investigated obviously.

Judi's avatar

I’m sure they will probably lose their job but I’m not sure about their license.
When Hubby first got his pilots license (Early 1990’s) We used to hang out at the local municipal airport a lot. The Commercial airport was a few miles away. We had a couple of near misses but a big bird never actually landed at our little airport.
I don’t understand how this stuff happens anyway. The GPS does everything but land the plane for you. The only thing I can imagine is that they entered the wrong airport identifier into their GPS. As a commercial pilot that would be just plain lazy if they didn’t get the right identifier.
Here’s an article.

CWOTUS's avatar

I wonder what happens to the Air Traffic Controllers in this instance. They should have noticed that the glide path into the “actual” destination was not matching the path into the “intended” landing area. No one said anything?

elbanditoroso's avatar

@CWOTUS – don’t know the details, just what was on CNN. You have to wonder how, with all the electronics, they can make this mistake…

gorillapaws's avatar

I’m sure they got drug tested…

glacial's avatar

When I make mistakes like this – doing something out of a blind sort of habit, without making a conscious decision – I always say that I was “on automatic pilot”. I guess that would sound a bit hollow in this case.

stanleybmanly's avatar

What happens to the pilots? Nothing good!

KNOWITALL's avatar

Have any of you been to Branson? It’s in the middle of the Ozark hills and very hard to see what’s around the next bend (the other was 7 miles away.) I’m glad it ended well.

In Springfield there are two airports, one is for twin engines and private planes, the other is commercial, but Springfield is rather flat, especially compared to Branson.

All I’m saying is that he probably didn’t expect to have more than one.

pleiades's avatar

Wouldn’t radio control also have a role in coordinating them to the correct landing strip as well?

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