NTSB Alert Targets Wrong-Airport Landings

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued two safety recommendations aimed at preventing wrong-airport landings like those in Wichita, Kansas, and Branson, Missouri, that attracted substantial media attention.

The Safety Board recommended to the FAA that controllers withhold landing clearance until the aircraft has passed all other airports that might be confused with the destination airport. The Board is also calling on the FAA to modify minimum safe altitude warning (MSAW) software to alert controllers when an aircraft could be headed for the wrong airport.

The recommendations were prompted by two high-profile incidents involving transport airplanes mistakenly landing at different airports than intended.

On Nov. 21, 2013, Atlas Air Flight 4241, a Boeing 747-400 Dreamlifter, mistakenly landed at Jabara Airport (AAO) in Wichita, Kansas, instead of its intended destination of nearby McConnell Air Force Base (IAB).

Two months later, on Jan. 12, 2014, Southwest Airlines Flight 4013, a Boeing 737, touched down at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport (PLK) in Branson, Missouri, six miles north of its intended destination of Branson Airport (BBG).

In both cases, VMC night conditions prevailed. Both landings were also made at airports with similarly aligned, though shorter, runways. Nobody was hurt in either landing.

The NTSB says it's aware of the several other wrong-airport landings involving both civil and military aircraft.

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