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By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times

Federal officials will investigate why a Southwest Airlines flight landed at the wrong airport in southwest Missouri, coming safely to a screeching stop on a shorter runway about seven miles from its intended destination in Branson.

The landing Sunday evening was the second recent incident involving a large jet missing its assigned airport. In November, a Boeing 747 that was supposed to deliver parts to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., landed nine miles north at Col. James Jabara Airport. That plane had no passengers.

Southwest Flight 4013, with 124 passengers and a crew of five, left Chicago's Midway International Airport bound for Branson Airport then on to Dallas. But the plane, a Boeing 737-700 landed instead at Taney County Airport, also known as M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport, according to a statement from the airline.

The airline gave no reason for why the plane landed at the second airport, which does not usually handle bigger jets because it has shorter runways than those at Branson Airport.

The website Flightaware.com, which tracks flights, said the Southwest flight landed at 6:11 p.m. Sunday. It was partly cloudy and the temperature was in the high 50s in Branson at that time.
The landing was safe with no injuries reported, but some of the passengers told reporters it was abrupt.

"The landing was really abrupt and the pilot applied the brakes really strongly," Dallas attorney Scott Schieffer, who was on the flight, told WFAA-TV. "You could hear it and you could certainly feel it."

The passengers were taken to the larger airport where they were placed on a plane to complete their flight to Dallas.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration announced on Monday that they will investigate the landing. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., also questioned it in a statement released by his office.

"I've landed at this airport and it's tough to navigate in small planes _ let alone in an aircraft this size," the senator stated. "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."

Photo: Shyb via Flickr

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