This frame grab provided by KSPR-TV shows a Southwest Airlines flight that was scheduled to arrive Sunday Jan. 12, 2014, at Branson Airport in southwest Missouri.
(Update at 9:24 p.m. on Jan. 13)
Southwest Airlines has suspended the pilots from a flight that landed at the wrong Missouri airport Sunday, as the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the mistake.
"We can confirm that the pilots have been removed from active flying pending the investigation," said Michelle Agnew, a Southwest spokeswoman. "We continue to support the NTSB in their investigation to uncover the circumstances which led the pilot in command of Flight 4013 from Chicago Midway to land at the airport, several miles from the Branson Airport we serve."
The flight mistakenly landed at Taney County airport, which is about 7 miles north of the intended Branson airport, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks flights.
Southwest brought another plane to Branson on Sunday for passengers to continue to Dallas Love Field.
"We have since reached out to each customer directly to apologize, refund their tickets, and provide future travel credit as a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience," Agnew said.
The Boeing 737-700 carried 124 passengers and a crew of five, the airline said.
Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said he had no explanation for why the jet landed at the county-owned airport, which primarily serves charter, corporate and general aviation flights. It was originally developed by the College of the Ozarks.
Jeff Bourk, executive director of the Branson Airport, said passengers were brought by bus to the correct airport, and Southwest brought in another aircraft for those traveling on to Dallas.
Jeff Engel, a Branson teacher who lives less than a mile from the Taney airport, said the approach Sunday "didn't sound like a typical plane." He said the plane sounded louder than what he was accustomed to hearing there.
"I wasn't concerned about any danger. My dog perked up and I thought it was unusual," he said. "Now it's kind of scary. You don't know what's going on."
Engel said he typically hears smaller planes landing and taking off at the airport. It is about seven miles north of the larger Branson Airport in Hollister, Mo.
The county's M. Graham Clark Airport started as a dirt runway in the late 1960s. The longest of the two asphalt runways there is 3,738 feet.. At the commercial Branson airport, the concrete runway is more than 7,000 feet in length.
In December, Southwest Airlines announced it will cease operations at the Branson Airport in June after serving the airport for about 15 months.
Aviation experts say landing at the wrong airport is rare, but that it happens occasionally, particularly when runways are configured in the same design.
Thomas Anthony, director of the aviation safety and security program at the University of Southern California, said such a mistake is probably the result of several factors that will be revealed in the formal investigation. Possible elements include the crew's knowledge, the aircraft's situation and how the pilots monitored their cockpit equipment.
"I think it will not be a simple answer, but a combination of many things coming together at the same time," said Anthony, a former official with the Federal Aviation Administration. "It's going to be a very interesting investigation."
Other examples of landing at mistaken airports include:
• In November 2013: A Boeing 747 Dreamlifter cargo plane from New York's JFK airport landed at the Col. James Jabara Airport in Kansas rather than McConnell Air Force Base about nine miles away.
• In August 2012: A Silver Airways Saab 340 turbo prop operating as a United Express flight mistakenly landed in Fairmont, W.Va., instead of its intended destination of Clarksburg, W.Va.
• In July 2012: A massive military C-17 cargo plane bound for MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa instead landed by mistake at the tiny Peter O. Knight Airport, which sits in the middle of suburban homes.
• In September 2011: A Colgan Air Saab 340 turboprop operating under the Continental Express brand mistakenly landed at Louisiana's Southland Field instead of the scheduled destination of Lake Charles Regional Airport.
• June 2004: A Northwest Airbus A319 intending to land at Rapid City, S.D., instead landed about 12 miles away at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
• January 2004: A Shuttle America Saab A340 heading from Pittsburgh for the University Park Airport near State College, Pa., instead landed by mistake at the Mid-State Regional Airport, a tiny general aviation airport in nearby Philipsburg, Pa.
William M. Welch and Claudette Riley , USA TODAY