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FAA investigating San Diego airport incident after recording captures confusion between pilot, air traffic controller

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Posted at 7:23 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 14:45:34-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Recently obtained audio recordings appear to capture some confusion between at least two pilots and an air traffic controller at San Diego International Airport. It is the second time in about a month that an incident prompted a Federal Aviation Administration investigation at the airport.

This latest incident happened just before 6 p.m. last Thursday, the FAA confirmed. The agency did not provide any further details.

In the radio traffic, a controller is heard telling a Southwest flight to go around, then heard to not head to the runway, saying a a flight is exiting.

The Southwest pilot then asks, "how are we going to do that?" Then, when the tower asks the pilot to confirm they're going around, the confusion between the pilot and air traffic controller becomes apparent.

"Pilot: no we weren't instructed to go around. (inaudible) you said don't overfly the traffic."

"ATC: 1648, negative I said go around and then do not over fly traffic."

"Pilot: yea, I didn't hear that."

A second pilot then says he also did not hear that order. Another says they're confused about how this all happened.

An ABC 10News aviation source explains that this was not a close call or a "near miss" but instead confusion. The source believes the pilot of the Southwest flight "stepped on" the audio at the same time the traffic controller was telling him to go around, meaning he never heard the request.

He says the other flight was far enough on the runway that it was still safe for the Southwest pilot to continue his landing.

This is the second incident involving an FAA investigation into communications between pilots and air traffic controllers.

On May 14, this station reported a runway incident at San Diego International Airport after air traffic controllers diverted a plane from landing while a second plane was departing. According to a statement from the FAA, the crew of SkyWest Flight 3446 was ordered to discontinue their approach to Runway 27 because another aircraft was on the runway preparing for departure.

San Diego International Airport, formerly known as Lindbergh Field, claims to be the busiest single-runway airport in the world, trafficking nearly 500 daily flights, according to the airport. The airport was ranked as the best in the country by Forbes Magazine in 2019 for its amenities, proximity to downtown, and minimal delays.