Passenger plane came within 32ft of a drone as it approached Edinburgh

Passenger plane came within 32ft of a drone as it approached Edinburgh Airport

  • The ATR-72 turbo prop passenger aircraft was 14 miles from Edinburgh Airport
  • The first officer saw the drone dead ahead and reported the near miss to officials
  • A report into the incident said the drone passed within 33 feet of the aircraft
  • Luckily, nobody was injured during the incident which happened on July 7 
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A passenger plane was endangered when it came within 32ft of a drone over Scotland, a report has revealed.

Investigators said ‘safety had not been assured’ during the incident which happened 14 miles east of Edinburgh on July 7.

The pilot of the short haul ATR-72 turbo prop said that he was on the base leg of an approach to Edinburgh Airport when the first officer saw a drone in the 12 o’clock, initially well below but which ‘appeared to be climbing.’


The drone passed within 32 feet of the ATR-72 turbo prop while it prepared to land, file photo


The aircraft was 14 miles east of Edinburgh Airport when the co-pilot spotted the drone

It passed down the left side of the aircraft and slightly above.

The separation was put at 200ft vertically but less than 33ft horizontally.

The pilot said the risk of collision was ‘medium.’

The UK Airprox Board, which investigates near misses, rated the incident as category B – its second highest rating where safety was ‘not assured.’

It said the drone was being flown above the visual line of sight limit ‘such that it was endangering other aircraft at that location.’

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‘The board wondered whether there had been opportunity for the ATR72 pilot to avoid the drone, but agreed that the incident was best described as the drone was flown into conflict with the ATR42,’ it said.

‘The board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident, given that they had seen the drone at range, portrayed a situation where safety had been much reduced below the norm to the extent that safety had not been assured.’

Last year a drone came within three seconds of hitting a passenger plane over Glasgow, an official report revealed.

The pilot of the Bombardier Dash 8 (DH8) described the risk of collision as ‘high.’

The incident happened as the plane left Glasgow on September 8.

The UK Airprox Board said the separation between the the plane and drone was 100 feet vertically and just under 50 feet horizontally.

The pilot said that during the acceleration on departure he noticed ‘a small black object’ moving towards the aircraft.

‘As it got closer he could see it was a drone; it was black and had an object or device attached below. In the space of about three seconds they had narrowly missed it, there was no time to take avoiding action,’ said the report.

The pilot reported the risk of collision as ‘high.’

Drones were also flown close to passenger planes at Edinburgh Airport in two separate incidents, just three days apart, last year.

In the second of the near misses, the pilot of an Airbus A319 was landing on July 30 when a white or grey drone came within 100 metres.

The plane was at altitude of 500 feet.

The UK Airprox Board said the drone was being flown in the vicinity of an airfield approach path ‘such that it was endangering other aircraft at that location and altitude.’

In the earlier incident on July 27, a Boeing 757 was climbing out of Edinburgh at 3500 feet when the First Officer observed a drone to the left of the aircraft at a distance of about 500 metres.

The board said the drone was ‘was endangering other aircraft at that altitude and location.’

In the previous April, the board said a drone had avoided crashing into a plane over Edinburgh only ‘by providence.’

It missed the Airbus passenger plane by just 75 feet.

And it was then the second incident involving drones and planes in Scotland’s skies – again within three days of each other.

The Edinburgh incident on November 25, 2016, was rated by the board as Category A, its highest level in which serious risk of collision has existed.’

Three days earlier on November 22 another Airbus also had come close to a drone – this time over Kilmarnock.

The UK government has already passed legislation that bans drones from flying at heights above 400ft (122m) and within 1km (0.6 miles) of airport boundaries. Pilots flouting the rules face unlimited fines or up to five years in prison.

The Department for Transport has been carrying out a consultation on new proposals. 

HOW CLOSE IS A NEAR MISS BETWEEN AIRCRAFT AND DRONES?

Near miss is a common term used to describe encounters between different airborne vehicles.

Governed by Airprox, there is no specific distance stated, instead it is gauged by the opinions of the pilot, air traffic controller and the drone operator. 

Earlier this year a ‘near-miss’ report was filed between a police drone and two fighter jets travelling at 520 mph.


Governed by Airprox, there is no specific distance stated, instead it is gauged by the opinions of the pilot, air traffic controller and the drone operator

The Devon and Cornwall officer was convinced there would be a collision as the military jet came into view.

The Airprox board reported the 13lbs device was flying at an altitude of around 300ft when the pilot heard a fast jet approaching.

The F-15 pilot, who was flying at an altitude of 500ft, could not see the drone but the drone pilot said the risk of a collision was ‘high’.  

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