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Feds Probing Why Southwest Plane Landed at Wrong Airport

BRANSON, Mo. -- Federal officials are investigating why a Southwest Airlines jet bound for Branson Airport in Missouri instead landed at another airport about 7 miles away that has only about half as much runway.

BRANSON, Mo. -- Federal officials are investigating why a Southwest Airlines jet bound for Branson Airport in Missouri instead landed at another airport about 7 miles away that has only about half as much runway. 

Flight 4013, carrying 124 passengers and five crew members, was headed Sunday from Chicago's Midway International Airport to Branson Airport. 

Dallas-based Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins says the jet instead landed at Taney County Airport, also known as M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport. 

Hawkins says the landing was uneventful and all customers and crew are 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.

Passengers were transported by ground to Branson Airport. Another Southwest jet flew them to Dallas on Sunday night, as their original flight was scheduled to.

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

It's 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. 

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 Flightaware.com 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," Hawkins said. 

Hawkins told The Associated Press the aircraft at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport will be able to take off on the smaller runway, and Southwest expected to fly it out "as early as (Monday) morning."

A spokeswoman with Southwest Airlines Co. released the following statement to KOLR10 early Monday morning:

"We expect the aircraft that landed at (PLK) Taney County airport in Branson, Missouri, to depart the airport today. We continue to look into all of the circumstances which led the Captain in command of flight 4013 from Chicago Midway to land at the airport, several miles from the Branson Airport we serve. We want to thank first responders and Branson airport administrators for joining in the work our ground operations staff immediately began to take care of our Customers and their baggage last night and have since reached to each of them directly to apologize, explain what we know, refund their tickets, and provide future travel credit as a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience. We brought in another aircraft last evening to bring continuing Customers on the flight to Dallas Love Field."

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