Southwest co-pilot retires after wrong-airport landing

The captain of the Southwest flight that landed at the wrong Missouri airport in January has resumed flying while the co-pilot has retired, The Associated Press reports.

Both had been on paid leave following the Jan. 12 incident in which their Southwest flight landed at a small airport near Branson instead of the destination's main, much-bigger Branson Airport.

The Southwest 737 involved in the wrong-airport landing had to brake hard and come to an abrupt stop ahead of a steep drop at the end of that airport's shorter runway.

Officials investigating from the National Transportation Safety Board say the pilots told them they mistook the bright runway lights at the smaller airport for the bigger one that's about 7 miles away. The runway at the smaller, downtown airport is about half as long as at the bigger airport.

No injuries were reported, though the incident generated headlines across the nation. The Southwest landing came just about two months after a similar wrong-airport landing by a jumbo jet in Kansas in November.

The incidents prompted the National Transportation Safety Board to issue an unusual alert in March in which the agency reminded airline pilots to remain vigilantin finding their destinations.

"All of us have experienced a loss of situational awareness at some time," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman is quoted as saying at the time by USA TODAY. But "mistaking a nearby airport for the intended one, or landing on the wrong runway or a taxiway, can have catastrophic consequences."

As for the Southwest pilots, airline spokeswoman Brandy King declined to identify them to AP. Bloomberg News reports that the captain has been flying for Southwest for 14 years and the first officer 12.


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