The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

February 10, 2014

Pilots often head to wrong airports, reports show

(Continued)

"You've got these runway lights, and you are looking at them, and they're saying: 'Come to me, come to me. I will let you land.' They're like the sirens of the ocean," said Michael Barr, a former Air Force pilot who teaches aviation safety at the University of Southern California.

Using NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System, along with news accounts and reports sent to other federal agencies, the AP tallied 35 landings and 115 approaches or aborted landing attempts at wrong airports by commercial passenger and cargo planes over more than two decades.

The tally doesn't include every event. Many aren't disclosed to the media, and reports to the NASA database are voluntary. The Federal Aviation Administration investigates wrong airport landings and many near-landings, but those reports aren't publicly available. FAA officials turned down a request by The Associated Press for access to those records, saying some may include information on possible violations of safety regulations by pilots and might be used in an enforcement action.

NASA, on the other hand, scrubs its reports of identifying information to protect confidentiality, including names of pilots, controllers and airlines. While the database is operated by the space agency, it is paid for by the FAA and its budget has been frozen since 1997, said database director Linda Connell. As a result, fewer incident reports are being entered even though the volume of reports has soared, she said.

The accounts that are available paint a picture of repeated close calls, especially in parts of the country where airports are situated close together with runways similarly angled, including Nashville and Smyrna in Tennessee, Tucson and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, and several airports in South Florida.

In a report filed last July, for example, an airline captain described how his MD-80 was lined up to land at what he thought was San Antonio International Airport when a rider in the cockpit's jump seat "shouted out that we were headed for Lackland Air Force Base." The first officer, who was flying the plane, quickly aborted the landing and circled around to line up for the correct airport. The captain later thanked the cockpit passenger and phoned the San Antonio tower. "They did not seem too concerned," he reported, "and said this happens rather frequently there."

Text Only
AP National
  • Obama urges immediate access to Ukraine crash site WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama sternly called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to compel Kremlin-backed separatists to stop hampering the probe at the Ukraine site of a downed passenger jet and allow international investigators unfettere

    July 22, 2014

  • American Jews, other 'lone soldiers' serve Israel JERUSALEM (AP) — The two Americans killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip followed in the footsteps of scores of Jews from around the world who have volunteered to fight for Israel. Israel calls them the lone soldiers: They are men and women in the pri

    July 22, 2014

  • 2008 law unexpectedly at center of border debate WASHINGTON (AP) — A 2008 law to address human trafficking is at the center of the debate over the immigration crisis at the nation's Southern border. The law was passed at a time when fewer than 10,000 unaccompanied minors showed up each year at the

    July 22, 2014

  • Lawmakers face long to-do list, uncertain success WASHINGTON (AP) — A gridlocked Congress failed to do the big things: overhauling the nation's immigration system, reforming the loophole-cluttered tax code and stiffening background checks on gun buyers. Now it's time to see whether it can just do th

    July 22, 2014

  • Detroit retirees back pension cuts by a landslide DETROIT (AP) — A year after filing for bankruptcy, Detroit is building momentum to get out, especially after workers and retirees voted in favor of major pension changes just a few weeks before a judge holds a crucial trial that could end the largest

    July 22, 2014

  • Working-class whites lose voting dominance in Ohio COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — For the first time, working-class whites make up less than half of Ohio's eligible voters, part of a demographic shift in a key Midwestern swing state that is pushing political parties to widen their appeal beyond the once-domin

    July 22, 2014

  • Obama urges immediate access to Ukraine crash site WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama sternly called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to compel Kremlin-backed separatists to stop hampering the probe at the Ukraine site of a downed passenger jet and allow international investigators unfettere

    July 21, 2014

  • US outlines case against Russia on downed plane WASHINGTON (AP) — Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site. "A buildup of

    July 21, 2014

  • Florida town stunned by news of police KKK ties FRUITLAND PARK, Fla. (AP) — Ann Hunnewell and her central Florida police officer husband knelt in the living room of a fellow officer's home, with pillow cases as makeshift hoods over their heads. A few words were spoken and they, along with a half-d

    July 21, 2014

  • Kerry returns to Mideast to push for cease-fire WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is making a renewed push for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas with another trip to the Middle East after the civilian death toll in the conflict sharply escalated over the weekend. Kerry left

    July 21, 2014

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National