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Passenger plane had 'very near-miss' with drone on Heathrow approach

Published 17/11/2016

The incident was in the most serious category
The incident was in the most serious category

A passenger plane flying near the Shard had a "very near-miss" with a drone as it approached Heathrow Airport, an official report has revealed.

The drone, described as black and about 50cm (20in) wide, was spotted out of the right flight deck window at about 12.45pm on July 18, the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) report into the incident said.

The A320 aircraft, which was flying at an altitude of 4,900ft near to the Shard skyscraper in central London, "narrowly avoided" colliding with the drone, according to the report.

The crew said the drone had "probably" passed above the right wing and the horizontal stabiliser, which is found on the tail of the plane.

It was one of 58 near-misses involving drones which have featured in UKAB reports over the past 12 months.

The UKAB's findings in relation to the incident near the Shard stated: "Members agreed that this incident appeared to be a very near-miss and that the drone operator should not have been flying in that location at that altitude."

It added that the account given of the incident " portrayed a situation where a collision had only been narrowly avoided and chance had played a major part".

It deemed the incident to be in the most serious category of risk and said the drone operator had not been traced.

Steve Landells, flight safety specialist at the British Airline Pilots Association, called for a number of measures to be introduced to tackle the problem of drones in restricted areas such as airports.

These include better education for users, compulsory registration of drones and fitting the devices with technology that would stop them being flown into the wrong place.

He added: " Flying a drone in an irresponsible manner puts lives in danger and any offending drone should transmit enough data to allow the police to locate the operator, and, if they have endangered another aircraft, a prosecution should follow."

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