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Delta passenger plane mistakenly lands in US air force base

Posted in World News37 mins ago • Written by rockingpritamsahaComments Off on Delta passenger plane mistakenly lands in US air force base

A Delta Air Lines jetliner with 130 passengers on board landed at the wrong airport in South Dakota on Thursday evening, said a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident.

The Delta A320 landed at Ellsworth air force base at 8.42pm Central Time on Thursday, when its scheduled destination was a nearby airport in Rapid City, NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said on Friday.

Ellsworth is about 10 miles (16km) due north of Rapid city regional airport. The two airports have runways that are oriented nearly identically to the compass, from north-west to south-east. Delta Flight 2845 had departed from Minneapolis.

A passenger interviewed by the Rapid City Journal said she and her fellow passengers waited about 2½ hours in the plane at Ellsworth, where they were ordered to pull down their window shades as armed military personnel walked through the cabin with a dog.

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.

Northwest and Delta merged in 2008.

Delta has contacted the passengers “and offered a gesture of apology for the inconvenience”, the airline said in a statement.

The crew has been taken off duty while NTSB investigates, the statement said. “Delta will fully cooperate with that investigation and has already begun an internal review of its own,” it added.

The air force said in a statement base officials “followed the proper procedures to address the situation” and ensured the safety of those at the base and passengers.

Citing security reasons, base officials declined to answer questions regarding the specific procedures followed during the incident and whether air traffic controllers at the base were in contact with the pilot and authorized the landing.

Landings at wrong airports by commercial pilots, while unusual, are still more common than many passengers may realize or airlines would like to acknowledge.

An Associated Press search two years ago of government safety data and news reports since the early 1990s found at least 150 flights in which US commercial passenger and cargo planes have either landed at the wrong airport or started to land and realized their mistake in time.

Of the 35 documented wrong landings, at least 23 occurred at airports with shorter runways, creating potential safety issues.

In most cases, the pilots were cleared by controllers to fly based on what they could see rather than relying on automation. Many incidents occurred at night, with pilots reporting they were attracted by the runway lights of the first airport they saw during descent. Some pilots said they disregarded navigation equipment that showed their planes slightly off course because the information didn’t match what they were seeing through their windows – a runway straight ahead.

On 12 January 2014, the pilots of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 stopped their plane just short of a ravine at the end of a short runway in Hollister, Missouri. They had meant to land on a runway twice as long, at nearby Branson.

A few months earlier, an Atlas Air Boeing 747 freighter landed at the tiny Jabara airport in Wichita, Kansas, instead of McConnell air force base, about eight miles away. The runway is considered 3,000ft (900 metres) less than ideal for the plane, one of the largest in the world. It took about 10 hours to turn the plane around and ready it for takeoff again. A nearby highway was shut down as a safety precaution.