Aviation News

August 9, 2012

United Commuter Plane Lands at Wrong Airport in West Virginia

Silver Airways Beechcraft 1900D (N81533) spotted at Billings, Montana. (Photo by redlegsfan21 via Flickr)

Pilot error appeared to be to blame when a plane flying a new route on behalf of United Airlines landed at the wrong airport Tuesday night.

United Flight 4049, operated by a Silver Airways Saab 340 turboprop (N346AG), was meant to fly the 30 mile hop from Morgantown, West Virginia to Clarksburg, West Virginia.

Instead, the plane landed about 10 miles short of its destination, touching down at Fairmont Municipal Airport-Frankman Field in Fairmont, West Virginia.

None of the 11 passengers and three crew were hurt and the plane suffered no damage landing on the 3194 ft x 75 ft runway at Fairmont (compared to the 7,000 ft x 150 ft runway at Clarksburg). But employees at the tiny airport were a bit surprised.

“Obviously, it was a mistake,” said Jake Wilburn, manager of the Fairmont Airport, to the Washington Post. “It was a normal landing, if you can say landing a Saab 340 here is normal.”

There were no air traffic controllers to alert the pilots of their error, as Clarksburg’s control tower is not staffed overnight (the flight landed at 11:30 pm local time) and Fairmont does not offer any control services.

Passengers were driven the remaining 10 miles down I-79 in taxi cabs.

Fort Lauderdale-based Silver Airways had begun flying the route on behalf of United just five days prior to the incident. The soon-to-be defunct Colgan Air had previously operated the flight.

Map showing the approximate route flown by the errant flight, and the correct route. (Map by Google Maps/Matt Molnar)

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  • I guess the first question is.. why is United (or anyone) operating scheduled flights over a distance that can be driven in 40 minutes? Flying from NYC to Philly is dumb enough as it is…