NTSB issues safety alert for wrong airport landings

Passengers line up to board their Southwest Airlines flight at Thurgood Marshall BWI Airport in Baltimore, Maryland August 29, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
Passengers line up to board their Southwest Airlines flight at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. (Gary Cameron/ Reuters)

The National Transportation Safety Board on Wednesday issued a safety alert warning pilots to take extra precautions following two incidents in which planes landed at the wrong airports.

The safety alert comes nearly three months after a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Branson, Mo., with 129 people on board, ended up at a small municipal airport several miles from its destination.

In November 2013, an Atlas Air cargo plane headed for a military base near Wichita, Kan., instead landed 12 miles away at an airstrip with a runway half the size.

Here are the recommendations Wednesday’s NTSB safety alert offers to flight crews:

  • Adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs), verify the airplane’s position relative to the destination airport, and use available cockpit instrumentation to verify that you are landing at the correct airport.
  • Maintain extra vigilance when identifying the destination airport at night and when landing at an airport with others in close proximity.
  • Be familiar with and include in your approach briefing the destination airport’s layout and relationship to other ground features; available lighting such as visual glideslope indicators, approach light systems, and runway lighting; and instrument approaches.
  • Use the most precise navigational aids available in conjunction with a visual approach when verifying the destination airport.
  • Confirm that you have correctly identified the destination airport before reporting the airport or runway is in sight.

While not common, these incidents do happen, federal officials say.

Government safety data shows that at least 150 flights made such mistakes over the past two decades. According to the NTSB’s safety alert, risks of wrong landings increase at night and when other airports are nearby.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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