A Rapid City-bound Delta flight landed at the wrong airport yesterday.
Instead of a regional airport, the A320 aircraft landed at an air force base.
Apparently, in this case, the two airports can be confusing
Ellsworth is about 10 miles due north of Rapid City Regional Airport. The two airports have runways that are oriented nearly identically to the compass, from northwest to southeast.
This was not the first time airline pilots have mistaken the Air Force base for the Rapid City airport. In 2004, a Northwest Airlines flight carrying 117 passengers to Rapid City landed at Ellsworth. The plane remained on the ground for more than three hours as the pilots explained to Air Force security officers what went wrong, and a new crew was dispatched to continue the flight to Rapid City.
It’s a bit funny since Northwest is now part of Delta, so technically the same airline made that mistake twice.
A Northwest Airlines flight that was headed to Rapid City, S.D., on Saturday landed a few miles off course at Ellsworth Air Force Base, and passengers had to wait in the plane for more than three hours while their crew was interrogated. Passengers were told to close their window shades and not look out, said passenger Robert Morrell.
Landing at the wrong airport is a big deal. When a Southwest flight landed at the wrong airport in 2004, it struggled to stop by the end of the (much shorter) runway. If they didn’t stop in time, they would have ended up on the highway.
The story behind that is, the “Southwest Airlines Flight 4013 took off from Chicago Midway International Airport on Jan. 12, 2014, for a 7,140-foot (2,176-meter) runway at Branson Airport, nearly Springfield, Missouri. But the aircraft, with 124 passengers and 7 crew members aboard, landed instead on a 3,738-foot runway six miles away, after being wrongly directed there by air traffic controllers.”
“In November 2013, Atlas Air Flight 4241 left New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport for McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas. But the 747 cargo plane mistakenly landed at Colonel James Jabara Airport about five miles away, after the two-member flight crew failed to correctly identify their destination.”
For more information on these types of incidents, check out this Reuters article.
So these things happen, but these incidents are not good. They are major safety concerns, and the pilots in these cases have been luckily nothing worse has happened!