Investigation Shows Errant Plane Landings Are Surprisingly Frequent

Posted on February 11, 2014

When you purchase a plane ticket and then later board the plane, you go in with the assumption that you’re going to be taken to the destination printed on said ticket.  But as a new investigation shows, the number of planes that accidentally touch down in the wrong spot or come close to doing so is alarmingly high.

A new Associated Press article takes a look at this phenomenon, which many consumers may think is impossible in the modern world.  As it turns out, there are certain areas of California that are particularly susceptible to the dilemma.  The report looks at the plight of San Jose, where a military airfield lies fairly close (ten miles) to the public airport.  Pilots will see the former and begin the landing procedures, not realizing that they’re about to touch down in the wrong spot.

The Associated Press has been able to identify 150 instances of this in the last 20 or so years, but even this could be underreported.  Such situations receive inquiries from the Federal Aviation Administration, but requests to obtain details of any investigations were unsuccessful.

The report details the reasons why such things are even possible.  It has to do with pilots trusting their look at the environment rather than what their instruments are telling them.  Not surprisingly, areas with airports in relatively close vicinity to each other are the most susceptible, with pilots believing that their systems are simply suffering from slight miscues.

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