TODAY   |  January 14, 2014

Pilots on leave after plane lands at wrong airport

The pilots of a Southwest airplane that landed at the wrong Missouri airport have been placed on leave as federal officials continue to look into what caused the mistake. NBC’s John Yang reports.

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>>> we have new details this morning on that southwest airlines jet that landed at the wrong airport in missouri. the pilots of that plane have now been placed on paid leave. john yang has the latest on this. good morning to you.

>> good morning, matt. we are learning more about how that plane ended up at the wrong airport. investigators are asking more questions trying to figure out why it happened. today the wayward southwest 747 is back in service running regular flights with a different set of pilots . and it's now clear how close it came to disaster, stopping just about 100 feet from the end of a short runway and a steep embankment and highway below.

>> if we'd continued on, we would've gone over the edge of the runway.

>> sources close to the investigation tell nbc news, things went wrong after the branson airport tower cleared the plane to land. on approach, the pilots turned too far to the left and lined up with the runway at the wrong airport. clark downtown airport, a small general aviation field seven miles north of the intended location. passengers got off nearly 90 minutes after landing. the pilots didn't come out after we filed today. perhaps as soon as today, ntsb investigators will examine the plane's black boxes and interview the pilots .

>> southwest placed the pilots on paid leave and pledged to cooperate in the investigation.

>> first, i want to know if all the ground navigation aides were working and if the airplane's navigation aids were working.

>> clarkdowntown runway is only 3700 feet long. southwest apologized to the 124 passengers.

>> as a passenger, i have to rely on the airline to make sure the pilots are competent. and i don't get to choose the pilots . certainly, i wouldn't want to fly with these pilots again.

>> southwest has refunded the passengers' tickets and given each of them $400 in vouchers for future flights which everyone, no doubt, hopes land at the right airport.

>> thanks very much.