Airplane Lands Safely — At the Wrong Airport

A n Airbus A320 aircraft operated by Delta Air Lines landed at an air force base rather than its destination at a commercial airport approximately seven miles to the north on Thursday evening, July 7, 2016.

The aircraft departed for Rapid City Regional Airport later that night — but not after passengers waited approximately 2.5 hours in the airplane, where they were ordered to pull down their window shades as military personnel walked through the cabin with at least one firearm and a dog.

Airplane Lands Safely — At the Wrong Airport

This is the statement which was posted at Delta New Hub, which is the official means of communications from Delta Air Lines:

The flight crew of Delta Flight 2845 on the evening of July 7 conducted a safe landing at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota mistakenly rather than the flight’s intended destination of Rapid City, S.D. The Airbus A320 aircraft had 130 customers on board and was in-bound from Minneapolis/St. Paul. The flight re-departed for Rapid City Thursday night after coordinating with officials.

Delta has contacted the customers of this flight and offered a gesture of apology for the inconvenience.

The crew has been taken off-duty while an investigation commences by the National Transportation Safety Board. Delta will fully cooperate with that investigation and has already begun an internal review of its own. Safety is always Delta’s top priority.

Although incidents such as this one rarely occur, they have happened in the past — as illustrated by the following four articles which I had written over the years.

2011: Airplane Lands at Wrong Airport Eight Miles Away

An aircraft operated by Colgan Air on behalf of Continental Express which originated in Houston was bound for Lake Charles Regional Airport south of Lake Charles in Louisiana — but instead landed approximately eight miles due west at Southland Field south of Sulfur, Louisiana in September of 2011.

Both airports have the same layout and their runways are located in the same latitude, tending to cause confusion — especially when the air traffic control tower at Lake Charles Regional Airport is not staffed after 10:00 in the evening, and the arrival time of the flight was scheduled for 10:30 in the evening.

The error caused the passengers to be delayed in reaching their final destination.

2012: United Express Aircraft Lands at Wrong Airport Five Miles Away

Passengers aboard an aircraft which operated as Silver Airways on behalf of United Express flight 4049 thought that they were headed for North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport — and the aircraft landed on time at night on Tuesday, August 7, 2012. The problem? It landed at the wrong airport.

Pilots announced that they had landed at the Fairmont Municipal Airport instead. The unexpected landing — to which Silver Airways euphemistically referred as a “diversion” — was not because of a sick passenger or a mechanical issue; but rather because of a “mistake” on the part of the cockpit crew.

Although tiny Fairmont Municipal Airport is located just five miles from Bridgeport, its runway is less than 3,200 feet long and 75 feet wide; whereas the wingspan on the Saab 340 operated by Silver Airways is 70 feet wide on its own.

Thankfully, officials had said that none of the 11 passengers and three crew members aboard the airplane were injured in the landing.

2013: Pilots Mistakenly Land Jumbo Jet at Small Airport

A Boeing 747 “Dreamlifter” cargo aircraft which operated as Atlas Air flight 4241 from New York mistakenly landed at Colonel James Jabara Airport in Wichita on Wednesday, November 20, 2013 instead of the intended destination of McConnell Air Force Base a few miles away.

The cargo hold of the Boeing 747 “Dreamlifter” aircraft is purportedly the largest by volume of any aircraft in the world.

Although the runway at Jabara Airport is supposedly too short by 3,098 feet for the distance required, the Boeing 747 “Dreamlifter” cargo aircraft successfully departed from the tiny airport on Thursday, November 21, 2013 — and a “tug” vehicle was needed to assist in turning the behemoth aircraft around prior to its departure.

2014: Southwest Airlines Aircraft Lands at Wrong Airport

The Boeing 737-700 aircraft which operated as Southwest Airlines flight 4013 and carried 124 passengers and five members of the flight crew from Midway Airport in Chicago landed safely at Taney County Airport — which is also known as M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport — in Missouri on the evening of Sunday, January 12, 2014; but the aircraft was supposed to land at Branson airport several miles away.

Although the aircraft landed without incident, it reportedly stopped short just yards from the edge of a cliff just beyond the end of the runway, as the terrain is hilly in this part of Missouri.

No injuries or fatalities were reported in this incident.

“Our ground crew from the Branson airport has arrived at the airport to take care of our Customers and their baggage”, according to an official statement released from a representative of Southwest Airlines. “The landing was uneventful, and all Customers and Crew are safe.”

Passengers were reportedly transported by shuttle to Branson Airport.

The small airport in Taney County has a runway whose length is 3,700 feet, which is considered too short for a Boeing 737-700 aircraft to depart successfully.


Although incidents such as this one rarely occur, they have happened more times than you might have thought. Thankfully, these incidents are more of an inconvenience rather than a safety issue.

Imagery ©2016 TerraMetrics. Map data ©2016 courtesy of Google Maps.

2 thoughts on “Airplane Lands Safely — At the Wrong Airport”

  1. Adam says:

    While I was waiting for Deltas twitter reply I saw someone’s tweet ‘Why are we at AFB?’

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Interesting, Adam.

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