"Wrong Way" Landings By Commercial Airliners
 
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The Legacy of Douglas Corrigan:
Jol A. Silversmith (June 2004)

On June 19, 2004, a Northwest Airlines A319, bound for Rapid City, South Dakota, mistakenly landed at nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base. Although this incident received extensive media coverage, aviators have been landing aircraft at wrong airports since at least Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan flew to Ireland instead of California (although his flight is widely regarded to have been an intentional stunt).

Despite the tremendous advances in navigational technology since 1938, such incidents continue to occur - most often when two airfields are located in close proximity, and a pilot relies on what he sees out the cockpit window rather than his instruments and charts (although air traffic control sometimes shares at least some of the blame).

This website briefly summarizes previous "wrong way" landings by commercial airliners, not including deliberate/emergency landings; landings on the wrong runway at the correct airport; and approaches aborted before the wheels touched the runway - the latter two of which, at least, would markedly increase the length of the list! (For example, two relatively well-known incidents of aborted approaches are an Air Canada A319, which on August 23, 2003 aborted an approach to the wrong airport in Kelowna, British Columbia, and a British Airways 757, which on September 18, 2000 aborted an approach to wrong airport in Tonsberg, Norway.)

To the best of my knowledge, there is no single source for this information, but such incidents often receive at least brief mention in the media, and some are entered into the NTSB accident database. When possible, I have provided a link to an online account of each incident. Additions and corrections are always appreciated.

  • December 18, 2005 - KARACHI: A PIA Boeing 737 landed at the Faisal Base of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF),a military airfield, instead of Quaid-i-Azam International Airport. Link.

         

  • September 5, 2005 - A Wings Air MD-80 bound for Minangkabau International Airport in Padang, Indonesia mistakenly lands at Tabing Airport, a military airfield. Link.

     

  • January 9, 2004 - A Shuttle America Saab 340 bound for University Park Airport in State College, Pennsylvania mistakenly lands at Mid-State Regional Airport in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. Link.

     

  • January 22, 2003 - A Chautauga Airlines Embraer 145, chartered by the University of Notre Dame basketball team and bound for South Bend, Indiana, mistakenly lands at Elkhart Municipal Airport. See Tom Coyne, "Irish land at wrong airport because of pilot mistake," Associated Press, January 24, 2003.

     

  • July 30, 2002 - A LOT Polish Airlines aircraft, bound for Kaliningrad, Russia, mistakenly lands at Chkalovsk, an abandoned military airfield. Link.

     

  • June 27, 2001 - A TAM Fokker 100, bound for Teresina, Brazil, mistakenly lands at Timon. See "Brazilian pilot mistakes private airstrip for urban airport," Deutsche Presse-Agentur, June 27, 2001.

     

  • March 14, 2001 - A TWA MD-80, bound for Yampa Valley Airport in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, mistakenly lands at Craig-Moffat Airport. Link.

     

  • December 8, 2000 - A BAX Global DC-8, bound for Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport in Oscoda, Michigan, mistakenly lands at Iosco County Airport in East Tawas. Link.

     

  • June 17, 2000 - An Air Nova Dash 8, bound for Mont Joli, Quebec, mistakenly lands at Rimouski. See "Pilots land at wrong airport," The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), June 20, 2000.

     

  • June 22, 1999 - An Avensa 727, bound for Latacunga Airport in Ambato, Venezuela, mistakenly lands at Izamva Airport. (According to some reports, the pilot did not complete the landing but did make contact with the ground.) See "Pilot Attempts Wrong Airport Landing," Associated Press, June 24, 1999.

     

  • July 16, 1997 - A Continental Express Embraer 120, bound for Lake Charles, Louisiana, mistakenly lands at Southland Field in Carlyss. See T.J. Milling, "A familiar landmark? Another Continental plane sets down at same, wrong airport," Houston Chronicle, July 19, 1997.

     

  • June 2, 1997 - A Saudi Arabian Airlines 747, bound for Madras International Airport in Chennai, India, mistakenly lands at Tambaram Air Force Base. Link.

     

  • May 11, 1997 - A Continental Airlines 737, bound for Corpus Christi, Texas, mistakenly lands at Cabaniss Field, an abandoned Navy airfield. Link.

     

  • March 27, 1997 - A Sun Pacific International Airlines aircraft, chartered by the Arkansas Razorbacks and bound for Fayetteville, Arkansas, mistakenly lands at Springdale. Link.

     

  • December 24, 1996 - An Atlas Air 747 bound for Pinal Air Park in Marana, Arizona mistakenly lands at Avra Valley Airport. Link.

     

  • October 15, 1996 - A Nations Air 737, bound for Orlando, Florida, mistakenly lands at Sanford Airport. See "Airline's inaugural flight lands at wrong airport in Orlando," Tampa Tribune, October 16, 1996.

     

  • October 3, 1996 - A Continental Express aircraft, bound for Lake Charles, Louisiana, mistakenly lands at Southland Field in Carlyss. Link.

     

  • October 17, 1995 - An aircraft chartered on behalf of the White House press corps, bound for Kelly Air Force Base in Texas, mistakenly lands at San Antonio International Airport. See "Press plane lands at wrong airport," United Press International, October 17, 1995.

     

  • September 5, 1995 - A Northwest Airlines DC-10, bound for Frankfurt, Germany, mistakenly landed in Brussels, Belgium, approximately 200 miles off course. (In this case, air traffic control has been blamed for providing incorrect flight plan data to the pilots.) See Don Phillips, "U.S. Jet Bound for Germany Mistakenly Lands in Belgium," Washington Post, October 1, 1995.

     

  • March 21, 1995 - A Great China Airlines Dash-8, bound for Taipei, Taiwan, mistakenly lands at Penghu Island. (In this case, the airline has been blamed for providing incorrect instructions to the pilot.) See "Misinformed Pilot Lands at Wrong Airport," Associated Press, March 22, 1995.

     

  • December 21, 1994 - A United Airlines 757, bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico, mistakenly lands at Fernando Ribas Dominicci Airport (a/k/a Isla Grande Airport). Link. See also "FAA Investigating Landing of United 757 at Wrong Airport," Aviation Daily, December 24, 1994.

     

  • May 5, 1993 - A Jet Airways 737, bound for Coimbatore, India, mistakenly lands at Sulur Air Force Base. Link. See also "You have arrived at err..." The Advertiser, May 6, 1993.

     

  • March 28, 1991 - An Emerald Airlines 727, bound for Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee, mistakenly lands at Wausau Municipal Airport. See Robert Imrie, "Pilot, Co-Pilot of 727 That Landed at Wrong Airport Suspended," Associated Press, May 7, 1991.

     

  • November 24, 1990 - A Wings West Fairchild Metro, bound for San Luis Obispo, California, mistakenly lands at Santa Maria Airport. See David Dietz, "Bay Airliner's Landing at Wrong City Probed: Plane Missed Destination By 36 Miles," San Francisco Chronicle, November 27, 1990.

     

  • November 8, 1990 - A Continental Express ATR-42, bound for Jackson, Mississippi, mistakenly lands at Hawkins Field. See "National Digest," St. Petersburg Times, November 10, 1990.

     

  • March 2, 1989 - A Dan Air BAe 748, bound for Aldergrove Airport in Belfast, Northern Ireland, mistakenly lands at Langford Lodge Airport. See "Flight ends at wrong destination," Independent, March 3, 1989.

     

  • January 21, 1988 - A Piedmont Airlines F-28, bound for Wilmington, North Carolina, mistakenly lands at Albert J. Ellis Airport in Jacksonville. See "Piedmont Jet Lands at Jacksonville Instead of Wilmington," Associated Press, January 23, 1988.

     

  • July 7, 1987 - A Delta Air Lines 737, bound for Lexington, Kentucky, mistakenly lands at Capital City Airport in Frankfort. Link.

     

  • November 3, 1986 - An Air France 727, bound for Eliat, Israel, mistakenly lands at Aqaba Airport in Jordan. See "Sorry, Wrong Airport," Associated Press, November 3, 1986.

     

  • February 3, 1986 - A Piedmont Airlines 737, bound for Bush Field in Augusta, Georgia, mistakenly lands at Daniel Field. See "Piedmont Airlines Flight Lands at Wrong Airport in Augusta," Associated Press, February 4, 1986.

     

  • 1982 - An Aero Airways DC-8, bound for Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York, mistakenly lands at Dutchess County Airport. See Edward Hudson, "Jets Mistake Tiny Airport for Another," New York Times, October 13, 1985. (I have not been able to determine the exact date of this incident, but the report appears to be reliable.)

     

  • October 23, 1980 - A Republic Airlines Convair 580 bound for Golden Triangle Municipal Airport in Columbus, Mississippi, mistakenly lands at Columbus-Lowndes County Airport. See "FAA Investigating Errant Landing," Associated Press, November 14, 1980.

     

  • July 14, 1980 - A Delta Air Lines 727, bound for Miami, mistakenly lands at Fort Lauderdale. (In this case, air traffic control has been blamed for providing incorrect flight plan data to the pilots.) See "Controller Reprimanded in Wrong Airport Landing," Associated Press, July 25, 1980.

     

  • June 20, 1980 - A Delta Air Lines 727, bound for Tampa, Florida, mistakenly lands at MacDill Air Force Base. See Tom Zucco, "The Official Tampa Bay Map of the Weird," St. Petersburg Times, October 18, 1991.

     

  • March 1, 1980 - A Republic Airlines DC-9 bound for Golden Triangle Municipal Airport in Columbus, Mississippi, mistakenly lands at Starkville Municipal Airport. See "FAA Investigating Errant Landing," Associated Press, November 14, 1980.

     

  • July 31, 1979 - A Western Airlines 737, bound for Sheridan, Wyoming, mistakenly lands at Buffalo. See David Bird and Albin Krebs, "Wyoming Town Fondly Remembers a Mistake," New York Times, July 7, 1981. (Buffalo subsequently honored the pilot with a "Lowell Ferguson Days" celebration.)

     

  • April 22, 1978 - A Maverick Air aircraft, bound for Tel Aviv, Israel mistakenly lands at Beirut, Lebanon. See "Cargo Pilot Finds Wrong Airport," Washington Post, April 24, 1978.

     

  • March 24, 1977 - A Pan Am 707, bound for Las Americas Airport in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, mistakenly lands at San Isidro Air Force Base. See "Wrong Airport," Aviation Week and Space Technology, April 4, 1977.

     

  • August 11, 1976 - An Iraqi Airways 747, bound for Orly Airport in Paris, France, mistakenly lands at Le Bourget Airport. See "Right City, Wrong Airport," New York Times, August 12, 1976.

     

  • December 4, 1974 - A Frontier Airlines 737, bound for Salt Lake International Airport in Salt Lake City, Utah, mistakenly lands at Salt Lake Airport No. 2. See "Jet Lands at Wrong Field," New York Times, December 4, 1974.

     

  • June 10, 1973 - A United Airlines 727, bound for Miami, mistakenly lands at Opa Locka. Link.

     

  • September 24, 1972 - A Japan Airlines DC-8, bound for Bombay, India mistakenly lands at Juhu. Link.

     

  • July 4, 1967 - A TWA 707, bound for Columbus, Ohio, mistakenly lands at Don Scott Field at Ohio State University. Link. See also Bob Thomas, "Columbus Recollections: From Stunt to Kangaroo, Aviation Has Rich History," Columbus Dispatch, January 5, 1997.

     

  • May 2, 1966 - A LOT Polish Airlines aircraft, bound for Linate Airport in Milan, Italy, mistakenly lands at Malpensa Airport. See "Airliner Lands at Wrong Field," New York Times, May 3, 1966.

     

  • August 12, 1962 - A United Airlines DC-8, bound for Portland, Oregon, mistakenly lands at Troutdale. See "Jet Lands on Short Runway at Wrong Oregon Airport," New York Times, August 13, 1962.

     

  • October 25, 1960 - A Pan Am 707, bound for Heathrow Airport in London, England, mistakenly lands at RAF Northolt. See "Taxis fit for war veterans," Daily Mail, January 18, 1995.

     

  • July 27, 1960 - A Pan Am 707, bound for Dorval Airport in Montreal, Quebec, mistakenly lands at Cartierville. See "Jet Lands Safely at Wrong Airport," New York Times, July 28, 1960.

     

  • March 3, 1960 - A Capital Airlines DC-3, bound for Willow Run Airport in Detroit, Michigan, mistakenly lands at Muskegon County Airport. See "F.A.A. Suspends Pilot," New York Times, March 4, 1960.

     

  • July 15, 1953 - A BOAC Comet, bound for Santa Cruz Airport in Bombay, India, mistakenly lands at Juhu. See "British Comet Off Safely From Small Bombay Field," New York Times, July 25, 1953.

     

  • March 25, 1950 - A Greek four-engined aircraft, bound for Northolt Airport in London, England, mistakenly lands at Hendon Field. See "Perfect Landing, Wrong Airport," New York Times, March 25, 1950. (The aircraft may have been a C-47 operated by Hellenic Airlines, but I have not been able to confirm this information.)

     

Many additional "wrong way" incidents have occurred, but I have not been able to locate sufficient information to include them in the list above; any further details about the following, or other incidents, would be appreciated:

 

  • September 2002? - A cargo Fairchild SA-226, bound for Anderson Municipal Airport in Anderson, Indiana, mistakenly lands at Muncie. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#562004).)

     

  • September 2001? - An ATR-72, bound for Hewanorra Airport on the island of St. Lucia, mistakenly lands at Castries Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#524023).)

     

  • July 2000? - A cargo 727, bound for Nashville, Tennessee, mistakenly lands at Smyrna. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#478990).)

     

  • 2000s? A TAM aircraft lands at the wrong airport in Brazil. (The report of the June 27, 2001 TAM incident listed above asserts that two similar incidents had occurred in the preceding year.)

     

  • October 1999? - An Embraer 120, bound for Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport in Gulfport, Mississippi, mistakenly lands at Lowndes County Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#451009).)

     

  • July 1999? - An L1011, bound for Prince Sultan Air Force Base in Saudi Arabia, mistakenly lands at King Faisal Air Academy. (Reports of this incident are included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#443917 and #443003).)

     

  • March 1999? - A 727, bound for Central Wisconsin Airport in Mosinee, mistakenly lands at Stevens Point Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#431156).)

     

  • November 1998? - A BAe 31, bound for Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah, Kentucky, mistakenly lands at Metropolis Municipal Airport in Metropolis, Illinois. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#421371).)

     

  • October 1998? - A Fairchild SA-227, bound for Baxter City Regional Airport in Mountain Home, Arkansas, mistakenly lands at Flippin Marion Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#417456).)

     

  • June 1998? - A cargo aircraft, bound for Appleton, Wisconsin, mistakenly lands at Oshkosh. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#406718). The aircraft may have been operated by Federal Express, but I have not been able to confirm this information.)

     

  • January 1997? - An Embraer 121, bound for Gulfport-Biloxi Regional Airport in Gulfport, Mississippi, mistakenly lands at the wrong airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#358608).)

     

  • December 1993? - An aircraft bound for Las Americas Airport in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic mistakenly lands at the wrong airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#259037).)

     

  • August 1992? - An aircraft bound for Jacksonville, Florida mistakenly lands at Hunter Air Force Base. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#218661).)

     

  • April 1992? - An aircraft bound for Joplin, Missouri mistakenly lands at the wrong airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#206906).)

     

  • February 1992? - A cargo aircraft, bound for Deadhorse, Alaska, mistakenly lands at the wrong airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#203020). The report also suggests that it was not the first such incident at Deadhorse.)

     

  • December 1991? - An aircraft bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico mistakenly lands at Fernando Ribas Dominicci Airport (a/k/a Isla Grande Airport). (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#197415).)

     

  • November 1990? - An aircraft bound for Golden Triangle Municipal Airport in Columbus, Mississippi mistakenly lands at the wrong airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#164148).)

     

  • June 1990? - An aircraft bound for Las Americas Airport in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic mistakenly lands at San Isidro Air Force Base. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#149634).)

     

  • May 1990? - An aircraft bound for Farmington Municipal Airport in Farmington, New Mexico mistakenly lands at Aztec Municipal Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#144687).)

     

  • April 1990? - An aircraft bound for Golden Triangle Municipal Airport in Columbus, Mississippi mistakenly lands at George M. Bryan Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#143980).)

     

  • April 1990? - An aircraft bound for Cancun, Mexico mistakenly lands at Cozumel. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#137211).)

     

  • February 1990? - An aircraft bound for Golden Triangle Municipal Airport in Columbus, Mississippi mistakenly lands at George M. Bryan Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#143980).)

     

  • 1990s? - A United Airlines 727 lands at Council Bluffs, Iowa instead of Omaha, Nebraska.

     

  • 1990s? - An American Airlines MD-80 lands at a military airfield instead of Omaha, Nebraska.

     

  • August 1988 - An aircraft bound for Golden Triangle Municipal Airport in Columbus, Mississippi mistakenly lands at McCharen Field. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#91886).)

     

  • July 1988 - An aircraft bound for Golden Triangle Municipal Airport in Columbus, Mississippi, mistakenly lands at George M. Bryan Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#90608).)

     

  • July 1988? - A commuter aircraft lands at the wrong airport in Columbus, Ohio. (For a vague report of this incident, see David Dietz, "Short-Haul Pilots Say They Get Worn Out," San Francisco Chronicle, April 9, 1990. I note that a similar incident occurred in Columbus, Mississippi that same month, as listed above.)

     

  • May 1988? - An aircraft bound for Rocky Mountain-Wilson Regional Airport in Rocky Mount, North Carolina mistakenly lands at Wilson Industrial Air Center Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#86869).)

     

  • January 1988? - An aircraft bound for San Luis Obispo, California mistakenly lands at Santa Maria Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#80010).)

     

  • January 1988? - An aircraft bound for Fayetteville, Arkansas mistakenly lands at Springfield Municipal Airport. (A report of this incident is included in the FAA/NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (#81126).)

     

  • January 1986? - A Wings West aircraft lands at the wrong airport in Atwater, California. (For a vague report of this incident, see Jonathan Dahl, "Exotic flights: The plummeting dog and other strange tales of commuter airlines," St. Petersburg Times, August 7, 1986.

     

  • 1984? - An Eastern Air Lines 727, bound for Tampa, Florida, mistakenly lands at MacDill Air Force Base. Link. (Although the St. Petersburg Times has referred to this incident, I have not located any reports that confirm it, and I note that a similar incident occurred on June 20, 1980, as listed above.)

     

  • 1980s? - A TWA aircraft lands at Boeing Field instead of Seattle, Washington.

     

  • 1980s? - A Philippine Airlines aircraft lands at military airfield instead of Karachi, Pakistan.

     

  • 1970s? - An Ozark Airlines FH-227 lands at Dixon instead of Whiteside County Airport, Rock Falls, Illinois.

     

  • 1970s? - An Eastern Air Lines DC-8 lands at Opa Locka instead of Miami, Florida.

     

  • 1960s? - A Allegheny Airlines aircraft lands at wrong airport in upstate New York.

     

Finally, although the following incidents do not strictly fit within the scope of this web page, they serve as examples of the many other "wrong way" incidents that have occurred:

 

  • May 5, 1997 - A Cyprus Airways aircraft, bound for Larnaca, Cyprus, lands at Paphos. (The pilot, reported to have been working strictly to rule, stated that the landing was necessary to avoid exceeding the total working hours allowed by international regulations.) See "Government blasts pilots union for working to rule," Associated Press, May 7, 1997.

     

  • April 2, 1997 - A private aircraft, bound for Guatemala City, Guatemala, mistakenly lands at a military airfield in San Jose. (The aircraft was transporting United Nations Secretary General Butros Butros-Ghali.) See "U.N. chief lands at wrong airport," The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec), April 3, 1997.

     

  • March 5, 1997 - A private aircraft, bound for Amicus, Georgia, mistakenly lands at Peachtree-Dekalb Airport in Atlanta. (The aircraft was transporting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In this case, air traffic control has been blamed for providing incorrect flight plan data to the pilots.) See "Arafat's plane lands at wrong airport," United Press International, March 6, 1997.

     

  • May 10, 1976 - A private aircraft, bound for Hopkins Airport in Cleveland, Ohio, mistakenly lands at Burke Lakefront Airport. (The aircraft was transporting Paul McCartney and Wings to a show at the Coliseum.) See "Memorable Moments: A Quick Look Back at Cleveland History Shows the Events and People Who helped Make This City a Happening Place," Plain Dealer, August 27, 1995.

     

  • December 18, 1953 - A U.S. Air Force B-29, bound for Hill Air Force Base in Utah, mistakenly lands at Ogden Municipal Airport. (One of the eight members of the crew was killed; this is the only "wrong way" fatality that I have confirmed.) See "B-29 Crashes in Smog," New York Times, December 19, 1953.

     

  • March 31, 1952 - A private aircraft, bound for Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, mistakenly lands at Newark Airport. (The aircraft was piloted by Merrill C. Meigs, who was at that time a consultant to the Civil Aeronautics Administration, and was the namesake of now-closed Meigs Field in Chicago, Illinois.) See "Newark Has Air Visitor," New York Times, April 1, 1952.

     

  • April 12, 1935 - The dirigible Graf Zeppelin, bound for an airdrome in Pernambuco, Brazil, mistakenly lands in a football field. See "Airship Is Damaged: Lands in Wrong Field," New York Times, April 13, 1935.

This page was last modified on October 25, 2005. Please email Jol A. Silversmith with comments, corrections, etc.

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