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Reports detail pilots heading to wrong airports

February 10, 2014 • National News


FILE – In this Jan. 13, 2014 file photo, Southwest Airlines Flight 4013 sits at the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Hollister, Mo. On nearly 150 flights, U.S. commercial air carriers have either landed at the wrong airport or started to land and realized their mistake in time, according to a search by The Associated Press of government safety databases and media reports since the early 1990s. (AP Photo/Springfield News-Leader, Valerie Mosley, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — At a time when a cellphone can guide you to your driveway, commercial pilots attempt to land at the wrong airport more often than most passengers realize or government officials admit, according to an Associated Press search of government safety data and news reports since the early 1990s.

On at least 150 flights, including a Southwest Airlines jet last month in Missouri and a jumbo cargo plane last fall in Kansas, U.S. commercial passenger and cargo planes have either landed at the wrong airport or started to land and realized their mistake in time.

A particular trouble spot is San Jose, Calif. The list of landing mistakes includes six reports of pilots preparing to land at Moffett Field, a joint civilian-military airport, when they meant to go to Mineta San Jose International Airport, about 10 miles to the southeast. The airports are south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley.

“This event occurs several times every winter in bad weather when we work on Runway 12,” a San Jose airport tower controller said in a November 2012 report describing how an airliner headed for Moffett after being cleared to land at San Jose. The plane was waved off in time.

In nearly all the incidents, the pilots were cleared by controllers to fly based on what they could see rather than relying on automation. Many incidents occur at night, with pilots reporting they were attracted by the runway lights of the first airport they saw during Login to read more

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