If I could afford an airline carrier for my next business start-up, I would propose surprise endings for a nominal fee of $1.00 per person. There would only be one caveat: passengers must disembark at final destination. I wonder if this business plan would fly, pun intended! Don’t be too sure this would be a sure flop!
The passengers of a Boeing 737-700 plane are still scratching their heads wondering how their Sunday flight with Southwest Airlines that was bound for Branson Airport in Missouri brought them to the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Missouri’s Taney County instead. This sounds just like popular television series “The Twilight Zone” where characters experience unexpected twists in this psychological drama.
Or, maybe not. Since recent incidents, experts from various related professions in the industry have shed light that may be unsettling. There is consensus that although it is not common for planes to land in the wrong runways, similar situations have arisen in the past. Safeguards are in place and tools within the cockpit can alert pilots of possible errors, but arriving at airports where planes are not scheduled may not be as unusual as we think.
As for Sunday’s now infamous Flight 4013, spokesperson of Southwest Airlines Brad Hawkins, said, “The landing was uneventful,” particularly after NBC news reported that passengers like Scott Schieffer described that “the pilot applied the brake very hard and very forcibly” while Diane Coplan said that the landing was “a very abrupt end, almost like a crash.” The pilots would have had to ensure the plane stopped as quickly as possible due to the difference in runway distance between the two airports. The airport’s runway in Taney County is shorter by at least 3000 feet! Western Taney County Fire District fire chief and Emergency Management director confirmed that it was roughly 500 feet from the end of the runway which some reported was near a cliff or drop-off.
Luggage was re-routed to the passengers who also had to wait another hour and a half for the buses to be sent to the tarmac to shuttle the unexpected passengers to the airport. Additionally, some passengers who were supposed to make connecting flight onto Love Field in Dallas had a further wait but were eventually able to travel onwards. Southwest Airlines has offered flight passengers a $200 flight voucher.
Although it can be a hair-raising experience when one pilot makes a mistake, but to have both trained individuals miss their intended targeted destination is downright freaky! The pilots are currently on leave, albeit paid, until appropriate investigations conclude. Southwest Airlines will cooperate with investigators.
US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokesman Tony Molinara confirmed that an investigation into the incident has indeed been launched. The National Transportation Safety Board have scheduled interview sessions with both pilots and planned to analyze the black boxes.
This is the second incident of planes not adhering to their scheduled flight plans in two recent months, with Boeing 747 Dreamlifter, intended to delivery parts, landing nine miles north of its intended airport destination in November 2013.
In time, perhaps the passengers will find it somewhat comical that shortly after a member of the Southwest Airlines Flight 4013 crew announced the customary welcome, the error was announced shortly thereafter. At least, the pilots owned up to their error by personally notifying the waylaid passengers over the plane’s speakers, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to tell you we landed at the wrong airport.” However, they remained within the cockpit of the plane until all passengers deplaned. Can you blame them?
Back to my business idea, I’m working on a presentation for the Dragon’s Den I think my friend Kevin will have strong words, but “nothing ventured, nothing gained”. Arlene will at least make them hear me out.