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McCaskill Questions Traffic Controllers in Botched Plane Landing

KSMU archives
McCaskill during a Senate oversight hearing Tuesday/Credit:

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill has joined in the sound off regarding the landing of a Southwest Airlines plane at the wrong airport Sunday.

The airline, along with federal authorities, are continuing their investigation into what caused the 737 series jet to land on a runway in Hollister, Missouri, about half the length of its intended target eight miles away at the Branson Airport.

While leading a Senate oversight hearing Tuesday afternoon about air traffic controller training contracts, McCaskill said that Congress and the American Public have entrusted the FAA with taxpayer dollars to maintain the safety of our airspace.

“While there’s no evidence of a connection of what we’re exploring here today, and what happened in Missouri, it is hard to understand how the air traffic controllers allowed a Southwest Airlines, we’re not talking about a small federal aviation aircraft, we’re talking about a domestic carrier of American citizens, how they allowed  them to land at the wrong airstrip, at the wrong airport, on the wrong runway.”

The Democratic senator went on to say Sunday’s incident is a timely reminder of the need to ensure resources are spent effectively on air traffic safety.

McCaskill joins her Missouri colleague, Republican Roy Blunt, in speaking out on the issue. Blunt has called for a thorough investigation into the matter, noting that an improper landing of that plane on the shorter runway “could have had dire results.”

Southwest Airlines has said that a third person in the cockpit of that plane was a company dispatcher who had authority to be there. But federal officials are likely to consider whether the dispatcher's presence distracted the pilots.

The executive director of the Branson Airport, Jeff Bourk, told KSMU Monday that his airport was operating normally on the day of the incident, the control tower was open and they were “ready for aircraft operations.”