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Plane narrowly misses colliding with drone at Heathrow airport

New report documents four incidents in the high-risk category

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 28 August 2019 13:08 BST
Drone near-misses have been rising for five years
Drone near-misses have been rising for five years (PA)

An aircraft at Heathrow had an extremely near-miss with a drone, a new report has revealed.

The Boeing 747 was on the approach to the airport when the pilot clearly saw a yellow and orange quadcopter drone, which passed down the left side of the jet.

The pilot estimated the drone was just 20ft away.

In the latest report from the Airprox Board UK, which documents all near-misses between aircraft and other planes or foreign objects, the incident on 6 June was put in the highest risk category, A (aircraft proximity in which serious risk of collision has existed), with the reported risk of collision labelled “High”.

“The reported drone was being flown above the maximum permitted height of 400ft and in controlled airspace such that it was endangering other aircraft at that location,” say the findings.

“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.”

The pilot gave a statement to the police after landing.

It is one of four incidents designated risk band “A” in the latest Airprox report, which tallies all near-misses recorded in April, May and June 2019.

The closest incident involved a two-seater C152 jet, which was flying from Southend on 2 June when the pilot saw a large black drone with flashing lights.

He estimated it was about 1m in diameter and seemed to be travelling in the same direction as the aircraft.

It was only seen when it was very close to the plane and passed within 5m of the right wing. There was no time to manoeuvre away from it.

The board classified the risk as “Very high”.

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Elsewhere, an A320 aircraft on the approach to Gatwick was forced to bank to the right by 5-8 degrees to avoid colliding with a dark-coloured drone.

However, although safety had been reduced, the board considered that “avoiding action was able to be taken”.

The number of drone near-misses has hugely increased over the last five years, leaping from 0 in 2013 to 125 last year. There have been 55 reported so far in 2019.

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