Next time you embark on an adventure involving travel, your greatest concern may no longer be the misplacement of luggage, but the straying of your entire plane. Earlier this week, the National Transportation Safety Board was forced to issue an alert to urge pilots to take particular caution when landing at what they believe to be the correct airport. According to a recent article by USA Today, there have been two instances in the last six months where pilots thought they had found the correct airport and have, in fact, mistaken it for a neighboring hub.
In January, a Southwest Airlines 737 landed at the incorrect airport in Branson, MO. A Boeing 747 mistook one Wichita, Kansas airport for a nearby one last November. The article indicated that furthering research on the matter accomplished by the Associated Press indicates that one hundred and fifty flights have made similar blunders in the past, thirty-five of which can be indisputably attributed to blatant landing location errors.
Between these two instances and the existing precedence, the NTSB has released a statement to advise pilots on the issue. While Chairman Deborah Hersman does acknowledge that everyone is susceptible to losing sense of their surroundings on occasion, the potential consequences of an easily preventable unexpected landing are far too high for her to ignore.
As a result, she has issued five recommendations to advise pilots on the issue. She asks that the plane’s position be consistently checked for its relation to the expected destination. This would help prevent the confusion prompted by the sudden appearance of an airport and the expectation that it must be the appropriate one. Furthermore, this caution must be emphasized particularly at night, as both of the accidents have occurred after sunset.
According to the NTSB, pilots should also strive to become further acquainted with the area surrounding their destination. Use of the most reliable and explicit navigational aides should be compulsatory. Becoming familiar with the design of the airport and its relationship to the adjacent buildings could also assist in distinguishing between the correct and incorrect runways. Finally, regardless of familiarity with the terrain, pilots are advised to always confirm the destination via communication before requesting permission to land.
Hopefully, with the implementation of these policies, pilots can insure the safe delivery of every passenger to the appropriate airport, with or without baggage in tow.