Mystery LHR drone of ‘considerable concern’

151547Further details of the near-miss involving a commercial airliner preparing to land at London Heathrow airport and a quadcopter flown by a hobbyist have emerged today in the official report released by aviation safety authorities.

Air Traffic Management revealed earlier this week that the aircraft that came within 20ft of an unidentified drone as it was preparing to land was a British Airways Airbus A320 carrying 105 people on board.

The pilot of the Airbus A320 pilot alerted aviation safety authorities of a helicopter-style drone 700 feet above the ground on its approach to the runway at 14.16 GMT on 22 July.

“The object did not strike his aircraft and he made a normal landing but it was a distraction during a critical phase of flight,” the report stated.

Investigators were unable to identify the drone, which did not appear on air traffic control radar and disappeared without a trace ‘despite extensive tracing action and the proactive assistance of local model-flying-club members’.

Safety authorities said they were of the ‘unanimous opinion that the operator of the model had chosen to fly it in an entirely inappropriate location’.

“That the dangers associated with flying such a model in close proximity to a commercial air transport aircraft in the final stages of landing were not self-evident was a cause for considerable concern,” concluded the report.

Flight tracking service Flightradar24 has examined what details were known of the flight for Air Traffic Management and has identified it as an Airbus A320-232 with a G-EUYM registration flown by the British flag carrier from Frankfurt, operating as BA905.

UAVIDA spokesman for the British civil aviation authority said its Airprox Board gave the incident an “A” rating, meaning a “serious risk of collision”. A spokesman for British Airways has confirmed that its aircraft was indeed involved in the drone incident on that day and said its  “highly trained pilots landed the aircraft safely and subsequently reported the sighting”.

G-EUYM-British-Airways-Airbus-A320-200_PlanespottersNet_281760It is not the first time incidents involving drones have caused potentially catastrophic situations.

So concerned is the United States Federal Aviation Administration over safety issues posed by drones that it released a report in November (FAA_drone_data) that compiles data on 2014 drone incidents.

Although not comprehensive since some drone incidents are reported to local law enforcement agencies, or not at all, several incidents offer a chilling account of the proliferation of potentially catastrophic incidents as drone technology become more popular.

On September 8, the report outlines how the pilots of three separate aircraft operating at La Guardia airport in New York reported “a very close call” with a drone in the final miles of their descent at around 1,900 feet

Read More: Existing drone tech poses lethal risk: EASA

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