Terrifying: Southwest Flight Descends To 525 Feet, Still 9 Miles from Oklahoma City Airport

Southwest Airlines flight 4069 from Las Vegas to Oklahoma City descended all the way down to about 525 feet – when it was still 9 miles from its destination airport. Air traffic control received an alert about the plane’s altitude and contacted the pilots, “Southwest 4069, low altitude alert. You good out there?”

This all happened just before midnight on Wednesday night. The plane had been cleared to Oklahoma City’s runway 13 – and it does appear to have lined up for it, before executing a go-around. They climbed to 3,000 feet and then ten minutes later the plane landed at the airport safely.

I have been unable to find air traffic control recordings with cockpit conversation. Weather and visibility appear to have been good at the time of the incident. Southwest is in contact with the FAA over the occurrence. The plane was a Boeing 737-800, registeration N8555Z, delivered in December 2017.

The incident occurred shortly after another Southwest flight that had plunged to just 400 feet above the Pacific came to light, and after a year and a half of heightened scrutiny of aviation safety issues entirely apart from the type of aircraft – from pilot errors to air traffic control issues.

(HT: Matt B)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Lucky reports that the initial clearance was to 17R not 13. I don’t have the recordings either but that makes the incident even more confusing. FWIW, airliners using 13 is pretty rare at that airport.

  2. @Alert – That was the China Clipper with Pan Am back in the flying boat era.

  3. There’s a really good thread on this over on Reddit, essentially all experienced commercial pilots talking about the technical details.

  4. The airlines are upgrading all these new hires who don’t have the experience. I have had co pilots who are upgrading and I ask a few questions and they have no idea the answer! They do not receive the training we did 20 years ago! So it’s half the companies fault ! We a a ca go into the grass in Clt then she tried to power out of the grass. We had a pilot land have on and off the runway in Kingston, Jamaica, and she was new to the seat.

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