Monday 26 September 2016

Birds, bumps and drones - Ireland's top air safety scares

Published 20/04/2016 | 02:30

There were over 200 near mid-air collision incidents involving Irish aircraft last year, new figures from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) show.

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A minority of the incidents were classified as medium or high risk, according to the regulatory body.

The IAA also recorded over 200 incidents of lasers being directed at aircraft, while birdstrikes accounted for 285 safety incidents in 2015.

The most common safety issue logged with the IAA last year was a combination of system failures and malfunctions in aircraft, reported in 951 incidents.

Air traffic management (575 incidents) was also one of the leading causes of safety occurrence reports being registered with the regulatory body, while a loss of control within planes was blamed on safety concerns in 243 separate incidents.

Engine failure occurred 141 times, according to the IAA, while "security related" problems triggered safety concerns in 92 cases.

In 224 safety cases logged, the IAA says it does not know what caused the problem.

Incidents involving drones accounted for just two safety alerts, although the IAA says that it does not know the full extent of drone use in Ireland.

However, a spokesman for Aer Lingus has told the Irish Independent that a number of recent incidents involving drones have been reported by its pilots.

"Aer Lingus can confirm that there have been six incidents to date where our flight crew have seen drones in the proximity of operating aircraft," the spokesman said.

"Four sightings occurred in 2015 and two in 2016. Two sightings were close to Dublin Airport and the others occurred outside of Ireland. All sightings are reported to Air Traffic Control and to the Irish Aviation Authority."

A spokesman for the IAA declined to comment on the claims.

"It is IAA policy not to make public details of individual cases," said the spokesman. "Penalties for the illegal operation of small unmanned aircraft are entirely a matter for the judiciary following prosecution. Any unauthorised use may be referred to An Garda Siochana for investigation."

A spokesman for An Garda Siochana was unable to say whether there has been any investigation or action taken against drone users in Ireland to date.

The IAA spokesman said that the agency deals with cases involving drones outside public attention.

"The IAA has engaged with those who have operated drones unsafely and come to our attention, with each case dealt with on an individual basis and evaluated for its potential impact on safety," he said.

Britain's equivalent to the IAA, the UK Civil Aviation Authority, has issued more detailed guidance on the risk provided by drones to aircraft and passenger safety. It has published figures showing 23 incidents involving drones within the last six months, with over half amounting to serious "near miss" scenarios.

Last weekend, a drone struck a British Airways plane at 1,700ft as it approached Heathrow Airport. The Boeing 727 was carrying 132 people.

Irish Independent

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