The National Transportation Safety Board said in a news release Friday the captain and co-pilot of Flight 4013 from Chicago, interviewed Thursday by NTSB investigators, said an approach to Branson Airport had been programmed into their Boeing 737-700 flight management system during the Jan. 12 flight -- but when they saw the airport beacon and runway lights at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Hollister, Mo., they mistakenly identified it as Branson Airport.
"They cited the bright runway lights at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport and the fact that the runway was oriented in a similar direction," the NTSB said in a preliminary update on its investigation. "They also informed investigators that they flew a visual approach into what they believed to be Branson Airport and that they did not realize they were at the wrong airport until they had landed."
The NTSB said the captain and co-pilot told investigators they used "heavy braking to bring the aircraft to a stop and then advised the Branson Airport tower that they had landed at the wrong airport."
The news release said the captain -- who has been with Southwest since 1999 and has about 16,000 flight hours, including 6,700 hours on the Boeing 737 -- told investigators it was his first flight to Branson Airport.
The first officer -- who has been with the airline since 2001 and has about 25,000 flight hours -- said he had flown into Branson Airport once before, but it was during daylight hours.
Southwest said the two pilots were placed on paid leave.
The flight carried 124 passengers. No injuries were reported.