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January 17, 2014

Southwest pilots told NTSB the wrong airport looked like Branson

Southwest Airlines' pilots who landed their aircraft at the wrong airport in Branson, Mo. on Sunday evening told government investigators that it looked like the correct runway.

The Boeing 737 aircraft which was carrying 124 passengers en route from Chicago Midway to Dallas Love Field was supposed to land at Branson Airport. However, the plane landed at Taney County Airport, about 7 miles away, at 6:11 p.m.

"They cited the bright runway lights at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport and the fact that the runway was oriented in a similar direction. They also informed investigators that they flew a visual approach into what they believed to be Branson Airport and that they did not realize they were at the wrong airport until they had landed," the National Transportation Safety Board said in an update to its investigation released on Friday.

The NTSB said that the captain of the Boeing 737, who has been with Southwest since 1999 and had over 16,000 flight hours, had never landed at Branson Airport. The first officer on the flight had flown into Branson once before but during daytime hours.

Investigators are also analyzing 1000 parameters and 27 hours of recorded data on the flight data recorders from the aircraft. The cockpit voice recorders also have two hours of "good quality recording."

The NTSB said it interviewed the two pilots and a Southwest dispatcher who was riding in the jump seat in the cockpit on Thursday.

-Andrea Ahles

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