Drone almost collided with American Airlines flight in Florida, officials hear

Drone came so close pilot was 'sure' the US jetliner had been hit

A drone almost collided into an American Airlines flight in Florida, coming so close the pilot believed he had collided into it, the Federal Aviation Administration has heard.

Jim Williams, of the FAA’s unmanned aircraft systems office, told officials the near-collision happened earlier this year as the pilot approached the Tallahassee runway en route from Charlotte, North Carolina.

The incident was reported to air traffic control on 22 March but was only disclosed publicly for the first time on Thursday.

The pilot said the American Airlines Flight 4650, a 50-seat jet, was at an altitude of about 2,300 feet (700 meters) when what appeared to be a remote-controlled aircraft came dangerously close.

It was described as "a camouflaged F-4 fixed-wing aircraft that was quite small."

The law currently requires that private individuals flying drones notify the airport operator and air traffic control facility when flying within five miles of an airport.

"The airline pilot said that the UAS was so close to his jet that he was sure he had collided with it," Mr Williams said. "Thankfully, inspection of the airliner after landing found no damage."

He highlighted the incident on the Hudson River where pilots of a US Airways Flight were forced to land the Airbus A320 on the river when a flock of birds was sucked into the engines. Because no-on died in the incident, it became known as the 'miracle on the Hudson'.

"The risk for a small UAS (unmanned aircraft system) to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real," Mr Williams told the conference.

“Imagine a metal and plastic object, especially that big lithium battery, going into a high-speed turbine engine.

“The results could be catastrophic.”

The FAA has been unable to identify the drone’s operator. In a statement, the FAA said "it is working aggressively to ensure the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the national airspace."

A US Defence Department spokesman said most military drones are not painted with camouflage, but the department had no further details of the incident.

American Airlines spokesman Paul Flaningan said the airline was aware of the alleged incident and that it was investigating the matter.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Lead

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading providers of w...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Executive is required to...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, an ...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders