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An American Airlines crew almost landed at the wrong airport in Florida

We don’t know what the captain of an American Airlines flight uttered after mistaking Page Field for Southwest Florida International, and almost landing an Airbus A320 at the general aviation airport in Fort Myers on Thursday. But the language probably was stronger than “Oops.” Thankfully, air traffic controllers directed the aircraft to the right airport where the FlightAware tracking software indicates it landed about 25 minutes late. According to a statement from the Federal Aviation… ( More...

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Tom Bruce 26
Was a controller at Sacramento... 10 miles east is McClellan AFB... one late night.. UA descending from over the Sierras from the east... "I have the field in sight"...radar guy "cleared for visual approach, contact tower"... I watched the big UA DC8 line up with McClellan... because everything we said was recorded and because pilots/controllers covered for each other back then (late 1970s) I transmitted "United 281 you can start your right turn now to enter base leg to runway 16" pilot realized his error made a big right turn and landed uneventfully... talked to him later on non-recorded phone... said had long day..delay at and out of Sacramento and eventually to SFO... we're all human.. pilots covered my errors couple of times, too!
bentwing60 10
Wonder how many times that conversation has occurred at ELP?
30west 9
Many times, I'm sure Bentwing.

My shortest X-C flight was from BIF-ELP in a PA28R for a ride with the Fed's for a CFII ratng back in the day. Great ATC comm made it happen. After ELP tower agreed, Biggs AAF tower cleared me for takeoff on Rwy 21 with an immediate left turn to final for ELP Rwy 8 (at the time no L & R) and contact ELP tower prior to takeoff. No need or time to raise and then lower the gear.
bentwing60 7
Same-same, ADS 15 to DAL 18. Made it without touchin anything but the throttles and flaps in 3 minutes in a Saber 60. The radio was the thing.
Mike Mohle 4
Done LGA to HPN a couple of times, North departure with quick left to land on 34 at HPN in several small jets. Good thing we had a crew of 2!
Rich Ferm 3
My shortest flight was Paris. LFPG De Gaulle to LFPB Le Bourget. Literally 2 minutes! Left flaps at takeoff 20° and never touched gear in a G550.
Another shorty was a scheduled 2 minute UA flight from Oakland to San Francisco. One wheels down "S" turn over the bay. Frequent Flyers used it to rack up a quick 750 miles, the minimum for a scheduled UA flight.
When Kansas City had 2 downtown airports I often needed to fly from one to the other (company logistical screwups, usually). If the Missouri River hadn't been in the way it would have been WAY quicker to taxi...but they were so close I had to fly several miles to make the 3500 foot trip! Fun days. haha
Mike Mohle 1
I remember that one too, over to "Riverside" airport in KS. What was the office name of that airport?
The one on the east side was, I believe MKC, the official KC airport...long before they built the new one 20 miles NW of town; the other one was Fairfax, I forget the ident. Or I might have them reversed, it's been a very long time ;)
Mike Mohle 1
Yes Fairfax was on the KS side. Thanks!
Tim Eichman 1
Fairfax Municipal was KCK... now used by Kirensk Airport in Russia...
Yikes. Well I seriously doubt KCK will show up in my logbook again. haha....thanks
Jason Chiu 7
"Southwest Florida International’s runway is 12,000 feet long, and can comfortably handle beefy aircraft such as the A320." Beefy isn't what comes to mind for a US Airways A320. It can also land / takeoff on 6,400 feet, as the runways at LGA aren't much longer than that
Peter Steitz 6
Hey guys, if there's an instrument approach, tune it in even on a CAVU landing. Even if you don't fly it, this will tell you you are at the wrong airport. Your eyes can deceive you. That's why we are all instrument rated.
That is exactly what is required in the American Airlines policy manual.
Art Murray 6
I remember when I was a student at Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach and an Eastern Airlines flight landed a few miles north at Ormond Beach about 12-miles north, an airport laid out almost identical to DAB, both had Rwy 06 as their main and longest runways.

DAB controller cleared him to land in visual conditions, and shortly later started asking him "Where are you?"

The pilot responded with a careful, "On the runway...."
Controller (Who figred it out...): Do you see the VOR on the field...?'

Yup. And there it was.

VOR was on the field - at Ormond - not DAB, and he was taxiing right by it, probably wondering what happened to the terminal.

Simple mistake but hell to pay. 06 at OMB was shorter than at DAB, so passengers had to be bused to DAB, and the plane drained of all fuel except what it would take to get get airborne and to DAB. Some of my friends drove up just to watch the short-field take-off.
Mike Duralia 4
Similar thing happened about two years ago at KUZA with an A320 bound for KCLT. Pilot made TWO attempts to land before he realized wrong airport. It was pretty wild to see that big bird flying by our building which sits across the road from the KUZA runway.

Maybe the A320 just "automatically" wants to go to the smaller fields...
It's because Rock Hill and Charlotte look SO much alike!! LOL!!!!!
Chris B 4
Two pilots. Neither of them noticed...... I find that worrisome.....
Curtis George 4
Back in the day, MIA and OPF looked the same from way out (and were about 8 miles apart), I remember this happening several times.
Today, a mistake like this is completely unacceptable, FMY and RSW look nothing alike.
Yup, you can add Tamiami airport (Miami Executive now) as well, Miami VFR approach from east terrain view is water, concrete grid and swamp...
rockportflyer 3
That’s what happens when you accept “visual approaches” to airports you aren’t familiar with.
Val Trent 3
In modern aircraft with flight management systems, always always have a centerline course to the runway, whether database derived or pilot programmed. Usually a glide path is also provided. There is no valid excuse with the technology we have today. Having said that, extreme fatigue can certainly set in and then bets are off.
bentwing60 2
Spot on!
chalet 2
The controllers at Page deserve a kudos por being on top of things and redirected the stray AA320 to SW Int. Remember the C-17 that landaded at a small airport near McDill AFB, I wonder if the AF pilots were at least slightly reprimanded.
Greg Szanyi 3
Lucky for the Air Force that the C-17 is designed for short field takeoff. It took off without a problem the following day after lightening the weight. Embarrassing day for the Air Force. It’s my understanding that both runways had the same heading.
Al Mongeon 5
The confusion at MacDill isn't all that unusual. Both runways are 04/22, lined up exactly and only 5 miles apart. In my 3 years at MacDill n the mid-60's we had several instances of small privates planes landing on our main mistaking it for home. Usually happened late night. Security Police and controllers usually got them back on their way quickly and quietly.
As good base ops & AP folks should. Avoiding a big federal case.
Yup, Knight airport almost downtown Tampa. I lived there for a few years and flew out of it (KTPF). I've never landed at the wrong airport but I've set down on the wrong runway a few times here and there D
Mike Williams 2
There is an old rumor about a commercial passenger aircraft almost tried to land at the Hawthorne airport instead of landing at the LAX airport. Those main runways are both generally in a west/ east configuration. I'll bet the Hawthorne airport runway is shorter.
zarchasmpgmr 2
Not a rumor; it was noted in an L.A. Times article back in the 1980s. HHR had upgraded their runway lights, and as a consequence they were much brighter. LAX inbounds were routinely lining up on HHR 25 instead of LAX 25L. Finally the airport dimmed the lights a bit and the problems stopped (at least there hasn't been any L.A. Times articles in the ensuing decades).
Gee...where did these guys get their Flight Training ? Back in the bad old days they taught us to ALWAYS dial in the LOC/GS just in case you lined up with the wrong runway. This is a big time problem with HEF and IAD which are only about 10 miles apart and have similiar runway configurations
jthyland 2
Very easy to do. Even though most airlines REQUIRE the localizer be dialed in, it doesn't happen. Saw it many times at ELP/Biggs (we called Biggs 22R) and Ellyson Field and Pensacola Regional. Ellyson was a helicopter base, 1500' runways, saw an Eastern 727 almost touchdown there. Ellyson is an industrial park now. Also Corpus Christie and NAS.

Fortunately it usually just hurts egos.
Neg Ative 2
I guess we are lucky they didn't try to land at 94FL ...

They got to 800' before they figured it out ! I went back and looked at the data.

I fly Part 61 out of KFMY, this is my home field when I am in Florida ( shout out to Beaver Aviation and the Fort Myers Flying Club), I'm glad I was not on final at 80 knts when that A320 came blowing in
Dave Main 1
94FL would have welcomed them! Then the fun would have started... 😉
oh my..well,everyone makes mistakes,even with radar and computerized cockpits..can you hear the poor captain saying, flight attendants,prepare for landing,then having to say,oops..flight attendants preprare for real landing..that was just a test!
All the Monday morning quarterbacks and desktop pilots on here crack me up!
Steve Hoker 1
The "Beefy" A 320, Really, ...
John Lohr 1
Lowell Ferguson WA 44, landed Buffalo WY instead of Sheridan. For years I cherished a tee shirt with a plane sunk into the asphalt with a guy waving out the pilot window and the text, "It landed in Buffalo Wyoming". After a while, Lowell agreed to be the Grand Marshal at the annual Buffalo summer cowboy festival. Not that I would ever do that, but Red Bluff comes up just before Redding and sometimes it's kind of smokey.
jon albrecht 1
On what I remember was a Piedmont flight into Tampa, an airport I had been to many times, on final approach as I looked out the window I told my wife "this is not right" . About three seconds later the power went to full and gear was raised as MacDill AFB passed by below. Captain announced on the PA that "we had to go around", no explanation given.
Do we know the pilot’s name? Just curious.
I recall a landing at McDill in Tampa, forget the Airline.
bbabis 1
?hit happens. Both sets of eyes locked out the window. Nobody minding the store.
David Hiester 1
Has actually happened at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery, AL at night. Approach path very similar to civilian MGM.
George Gould 1
GPS broke down?
United DC-8, Troutdale, Oregon, 1962
Tom Bruce 1
oh yeah...remember that... crew so intent on tracing a problem they ran out of gas...right?
The southwest flight a couple years ago
patrick baker -5
why can an airliner essentially cancel ifr, and make a vfr approach as happened here? This flight was abandoned by controllers. for i think flights ought to be taken to where they join the localizer for safety's sake, then turned over to tower for landing. Nobody is that busy where this could happen at a low traffic terminal as in Fort Myers, florida.
30west 4
Most likely he was cleared for the Visual Approach (not a VFR approach) to RSW which is conducted under IFR. Once cleared for the Visual Approach, he was probably told in that same clearance to contact RSW tower.
ddesfosse 2
Correct. Never abandoned by ATC. Right after getting cleared for the visual approach, he would have contacted RSW tower, RSW tower would have cleared him to land. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in the tower... Because I imagine a minute or so later the tower controller might have said something like, "AAL862, not in sight from the tower, confirm you have runway 6 at Southwest Florida International Airport in sight..." or something like that. Then, the crew, seeing that they were lined up for Runway 5, not runway 6, and maybe even noticing at that point that the airport they were on short final to, at less than 800 feet, had one more runway then the airport they were supposed to have been landing at, expressed a (hopefully inaudible on frequency) "strong word" in the cockpit, then stated "AAL682, missed approach", and tower replying with "Contact Departure"....
ddesfosse 10
And it's up to the pilots and/or the company Ops specs to determine if they need to (or want to) back themselves up with an ILS. Just because it's smart, doesn't mean it's required. The crew reported the runway in sight. They goofed. You don't want to try to legislate everything for the one in a many-million goof -- legislate smartly based on risk.
Tom Bruce 6
I cleared PSA ??? for takeoff from Sacramento..this is the same flight that collided with a GA aircraft at San Diego... PSA was aggressive at asking for visual approach as it reduced their flight time... in this case PSA advised of traffic..replied "traffic in sight" cleared for visual approach but had wrong plane in sight and collided and crashed... after this incident PSA pilots stopped taking visuals...
Highflyer1950 1
Tom, correct me if I get this wrong, if the arrival controller clears and you accept the visual app, doen’t the app controller hot line the tower and advise so that they can confirm positive control handoff before he switches you to tower freq.?
Highflyer1950 1
oops, doesn’t..
Tom Bruce 4
you get an "inbound... UA 281 12 miles out on visual" handoff... pilot navigates on his own... tower sequences and separates
Highflyer1950 1
Jim Mitchell -3
This seems a common thing at American Airlines.
bentwing60 4
Really, list a few more incidents of late.
Still waiting for that list...

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

Mike Webb 4
Those greedy ants taking your money!!!


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