Occasionally, pilots will mistaken one airport for another, and even land at the wrong airport.
Today, though, an air traffic controller mistook another airplane for mine. It's an honest mistake by the controller and it was never a safety issue.
You can hear us discuss which airport I'm looking at in this two minute audio clip. (I compressed seven minutes of audio down to a couple of minutes by removing dead air and conversations with other aircraft.)
Here's what's happening in this audio clip from this morning...
(My call sign is "Skylane November Niner Three Bravo Zulu," sometimes shortened to "Three Bravo Zulu"):
1. I check-in with the tower controller at Palomar Airport in Carlsbad by letting him know that I'm 4,500' off the coast of Encinitas, south of the airport (heading north) and I ask for landing instructions.
2. He tells me to make "left traffic" (left turns) to runway 24 (two four), which makes sense based on my position.
3. About six seconds later, the controller changes his mind and tells me to continue north, up the coast, past the airport. He tells me that I'll be making "right traffic" (right turns) to the runway which makes sense since I'll be north of the airport. He clarifies that he'll tell me when it's time to turn in to the airport. This procedure isn't uncommon if there's other traffic that would be an issue.
4. The controller tells me to turn right when I'm over the (Carlsbad) power plant.
5. The controller then tells me to turn right a minute or two later, which I do.
6. The controller then tells me that it looks like I'm heading to the wrong airport (Oceanside Airport).
7. I tell him that I'm looking at Palomar Airport and he tells me that I'm looking at Oceanside Airport.
8. I tell him that I'm lined up perfectly with the runway's centerline. At this point, I'm only a couple miles from the correct airport in Carlsbad (Palomar).
9. He asks me to "ident" which means he wants me to press a button on my airplane's transponder to send out a signal that will flash on his radar screen.
10. He sees my ident and realizes his mistake by saying, "Roger," and tells me to continue flying the traffic pattern I'm flying. He briefly asks me to maintain my current altitude before letting me descend. He points out some other traffic which he wants me to follow into the airport and then clears me to land.
Tah-dah! That was my Sunday morning. All's well.