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Investigations Galore After Southwest Airlines Wrong Airport Landing

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – It’s an unscheduled arrival that may land a Southwest Airlines pilot and co-pilot in trouble. The 737 jet sat on the runway last night after the flight crew went to the wrong airport in Branson, Missouri.

Passenger Scott Schieffer, a Dallas attorney said, “Everything seemed fine until we landed.”

Schieffer recorded video afterwards and recalled that the plane made a very rough landing. “The brakes were being applied as forcefully as I’ve ever felt. I’ve flown hundreds of miles and that was the toughest braking landing I’ve ever been in.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating why flight 4013, which was ultimately on its way to Dallas Love Field, landed at M. Graham Clark Downtown airport, instead of the Branson Airport — six miles away.

NTSB officials said the board will review information from cockpit voice and flight data recorders.

Denny Kelly is a retired airline pilot.  “It was a simple mistake that could have turned into a disaster,” he said.

Disaster because the runway where the Southwest crew landed is just 3,700 feet long – a much shorter length than a 737 jet needs.

Kelly explained, “That’s not within the boundaries for that type of airplane.  It’s very unsafe.”

The manager of the downtown airport told CBS 11’s Jack Fink the jet stopped 300 feet from the end of the runway, where it drops 60 feet.

Schieffer said, “I was taking a photo of the plane and a local official said, ‘son, you should turn around and take a photo behind you because that’s the cliff you almost went over.’”

Sources say air traffic control at the Branson Airport, where the plane should have landed, gave the pilot permission to land. The downtown airport, where the jet ultimately landed, is unmanned and doesn’t have air traffic control. These two factors meant nobody realized the jet was headed to the wrong place.

According to Kelly, the pilots have something right in front of them that could have easily prevented the mistake. “If they have all the navigational radios and aids turned on, it shouldn’t have happened, if they paid attention to it,” he said.

Southwest Airlines has grounded the pilot, a 14-year veteran and the co-pilot, a 12-year veteran with pay, as is standard procedure.

Schieffer said Southwest refunded the cost of his tickets, and gave him a $400 voucher for future travel. He says he’s satisfied and will fly Southwest again.

The airline and Southwest’s pilots union say they are cooperating with investigators.

Follow Jack on Twitter:  @cbs11jack

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