An airliner carrying up to 186 passengers came 20ft away from potential disaster when a drone passed by shortly after take-off, the UK Airprox Board report revealed. The close call happened on May 19, 2019 just five months after drone sightings brought Gatwick to a standstill for 33 hours.
The two pilots of the Airbus A320 saw the drone flash past their cockpit while they were flying at a speed of 260mph about six miles from the Sussex airport. The drone in question was flying 3000ft over the ground, which is nearly eight times the legal maximum height (400ft) for drones.
The report by the UK Airprox Board, which investigates near misses, said the aircraft was in a left turn when 'the First Officer sighted a small drone fly past the nose and down the left-hand side of the aircraft. The report added: “The Captain then sighted the drone miss the port wingtip by about 20ft. It was described as approximately a metre in length and black in colour with blue markings.” According to the report, the drone was seen just a couple of minutes after take-off and was reported to air traffic control.
The report rated the near-miss as the highest possible Category A incident where there was a serious risk of collision. It also ruled that the drone was 'endangering other aircraft' while being flown above the maximum permitted height. The report added: “The Board considered that the pilot's overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.” If caught, the drone operator could have faced a jail sentence of up to five years if convicted of endangering an aircraft.
Drones are not only distracting to pilots, but they can also cause damage to planes and put passengers lives at risk. Recently, there has been an uptick in the number of drones flying dangerously close to airplanes and airports. D