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Update: 9:31 a.m. 1-14-14: Senator Roy Blunt has sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) demanding answers.
“Thankfully, there were no injuries or fatalities in this incident; however, given the fact that the longest runway at the PLK airport [the Taney County Airport] is almost half the length of the longest runway at BKG [the Branson Airport], the improper landing of this plane could have had dire results,” the Senator wrote.
Update at 5:13 a.m. 1-14-14: Southwest Airlines Spokesperson Brandy King said Monday that the captain and first officer of the plane that landed at the wrong airport have been removed from flying duties during both an internal and federal investigation.
King says the captain is in his 15th year flying for Southwest.
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt is calling for a thorough investigation into why a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Branson landed at the wrong airport Sunday night. As Scott Harvey reports, the Boeing 737-700 series aircraft carrying 124 passengers touched down without incident on a smaller runway about eight miles from its intended target.
In a written statement, Sen. Blunt said he’s landed at the smaller M. Graham Clark Airport in Hollister, Missouri before and it’s tough to navigate in small planes – let along in an aircraft that size. The longest runway there is just over half the length of the one at Branson.
“People have every right to assume that they will arrive at their correct destination. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I will insist that federal regulators do a thorough investigation to find out exactly what happened in southwest Missouri,” Blunt said.
Jeff Bourk, executive director of the Branson Airport, says he’s unsure what caused the mix-up.
“Our airport, the Branson Airport, was operating normally. Weather conditions were good. The control tower was open, and the airport was ready for aircraft operations here at BKG,” Bourk said.
Bourk says airport crews worked with officials from the Hollister airport, Taney County Emergency Management and the sheriff’s office to quickly resolve the issue.
“Those passengers were transported back to the Branson Airport where they could get in their vehicles or rental car or whatever and go to their destinations.”
Those continuing their trip to Dallas were loaded onto another plane brought in by Southwest Sunday night.
A Southwest spokesperson says all passengers leaving from and continuing onto Dallas were taken in a separate airplane Sunday night, adding that the airline is fully cooperating with an investigation by the NTSB and FAA.
See the Southwest statement regarding Sunday's incident.
In December, Southwest announced plans to discontinue service to Branson due to low demand.