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Audio Captures Confusion Of Southwest Wrong-Airport Landing

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A newly released air traffic control recording captures the confusion when a Southwest Airlines plane landed at the wrong Missouri airport in January.

Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. officials said Monday that the captain and co-pilot remain on paid leave pending the outcome of the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of the January 12 incident. Both men have at least 12 years of experience at the airline.

In a recording released by the Federal Aviation Administration, an air traffic controller at the main Branson, Mo., airport can be heard clearing Southwest Flight 4013 to land.

♦♦♦ Click Here To Listen To The  Recording ♦♦♦

After the plane stopped, one of the pilots radioed, “I assume I’m not at your airport.”

“Southwest 4013,” the controller answered, “uhm, have you landed?”

“Yes.”

The Branson tower called a regional air traffic center in Springfield, Mo., to check on the plane. Then he relayed news that the pilot said he had landed at the wrong airport. The plane had touched down at another and smaller Branson-area airport.

“Are you kidding?” an official in Springfield responded.

“No, I’m not,” the Branson tower answered.

The Southwest pilots landed at night by sight instead of using instruments to guide their approach. They had to brake hard to stop the Boeing 737 with 124 passengers before the end of the smaller airport’s runway. The runway there is only about half as long as the one at the main Branson airport. There were no injuries.

Flight 4013 was ultimately on its way to Dallas Love Field Airport.

Aviation experts have questioned why neither pilot realized the mistake before landing.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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