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Airliner Lands At Wrong Airport, Barely Misses Going Off Runway

NPR icon by Scott Neuman
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Investigators are trying to figure out what caused a Southwest Airlines 737 to land at the wrong airport in Missouri, narrowly averting a slide off the end of the runway.

There were no injuries on Flight 4013, which was carrying 124 passengers on Sunday when it slid to a halt on the tarmac at 6:11 p.m. CT at Taney County Airport instead of Branson Airport, where it had been scheduled to stop en route from Chicago Midway International Airport to Dallas, its final intended destination.

It was partly cloudy and in the high 50s in Branson at the time of the landing, according to The Associated Press.

"The landing was uneventful, and all customers and crew are safe," Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said of the mix up, without elaborating.

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

Taney County Airport, also known as M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport, is in Hollister, Mo., about 6 miles north of Branson Airport. While Branson's runway is 7,140 feet long, Taney's is only about 3,740 feet in length.

"[It was] very shocking when we exited the plane and saw the actual runway and how close we were to the edge of the runway," passenger Hunter Poole, told ABC News.

Another passenger, Dallas attorney Scott Schieffer, told ABC that he could smell burning rubber from the plane's tires as the aircraft came to a halt.

"The landing was really abrupt and the pilot applied the brakes really strongly," Schieffer said. "You could hear it and you could certainly feel it."

Passengers were put on another flight at Branson Airport and continued their flight to Dallas, according to Southwest.

ABC reports:

"The pilot spoke to passengers over the intercom after the landing, trying to calm their nerves."

"'People know we are here and we will be taking care of you just as soon as we can," the pilot said, as recorded by a passenger on the plane. 'Thanks again for your patience and I apologize.'"

As the AP notes:

"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."

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