Southwest: Third person authorized to be in cockpit

By Jim Salter

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14 2014 10:21 a.m. MST

Southwest Airlines Flight 4013 sits at the M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport in Hollister, Mo., Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. The plane was supposed to land at the nearby Branson Airport on Sunday evening, but instead landed at Clark Airport, also known as Taney County Airport, which has a much shorter runway than at Branson, about 7 miles away.

Springfield News-Leader, Valerie Mosley, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

DALLAS — Southwest Airlines says a third person in the cockpit of a plane that landed at the wrong Missouri airport was a company dispatcher who had authority to be there.

The airline and federal officials said Tuesday they are continuing to investigate why a Southwest Boeing 737 with 124 passengers headed for the main airport in Branson, Mo., landed several miles away at a smaller airport with a runway roughly half as long.

Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King says a dispatcher was sitting behind the captain and first officer. Dispatchers work with pilots to plan flight routes after considering weather and other factors.

It's not uncommon for airline employees to sit in the jumpseat with the pilots' permission, but federal officials are likely to consider whether the dispatcher's presence distracted the pilots.

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