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TWA jet unknowingly lands at wrong airport

CRAIG, Colorado (CNN) -- A TWA jetliner carrying 116 passengers and six crewmembers landed safely at the wrong airport Wednesday, a mistake that wasn't realized until the pilot notified puzzled air controllers he "was on the ground" and the MD-81 was stuck in mud, a sheriff's spokesman said.

Nobody was injured.

Moffat County Sheriff spokesman Rick Holford said the plane landed at 1:56 p.m. at Craig Moffat Airport, a tiny airport in northwest Colorado for Lear jets and other small planes.

He said the plane was supposed to have landed at nearby Yampa Valley Airport, a larger airport to the east in Hayden, Colorado, that accommodates skiers for Steamboat Springs. The plane had left from St. Louis.

"The pilot of TWA Flight 641 notified the Yampa Valley control tower that he was on the ground. However, the Yampa Valley Airport is about 20 miles away," said Holford.

He said it wasn't immediately clear why the plane missed its intended airport, but added the "weather was very poor" with blinding snow at the time.

Holford said the Craig airport has a runway that is about 5,600 feet long, about half as long as the one where it was supposed to have landed.

"This is not an airport intended for planes this size," he said, adding that the airport doesn't have gates.

He said after the plane landed it was turning around, ran off the runway and got stuck in the mud.

"(The pilot) traveled maybe 12 feet off the runway before the plane stopped," Holford said. "It was doing its turn around when it went off the runway. I can't imagine it was going very fast at the time."

TWA spokeswoman Julia Bishop-Cross would only say the airline had an "unscheduled landing in Craig, Colorado" and that the passengers have since been bused to Steamboat Springs.

"At this point, we don't know why this pilot made an unscheduled landing," she said.



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