Thursday 8 December 2016

Police probing 'reckless near-miss' between drone and passenger plane

Francesca Gosling

Published 11/08/2016 | 12:59

Police are investigating reports of a
Police are investigating reports of a "near-miss" between a drone and a passenger plane containing 62 people which was approaching Newquay Airport Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Police have launched an investigation following reports of a "reckless" near-miss between a drone and a commercial flight.

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Devon and Cornwall Police said the passenger plane, which was carrying 62 people, was arriving at Newquay Airport on Tuesday afternoon when it reported the near collision.

Inspector Dave Meredith said: "The aircraft was travelling at around 900ft and was approximately two miles from the airport, just south of St Columb Major, when it reported a near-miss with a drone which flew alongside the aircraft.

"Police immediately conducted a search of the area but neither the drone nor its operator could be located.

"This is an incredibly concerning incident; the close proximity of the drone to the passenger aircraft shows a complete disregard by the operator for public safety, and we are appealing to the public for information to help us track down this reckless drone operator."

The airport confirmed that the flight was a Flybe service arriving from London Stansted and added that the drone could have also posed a danger to other flights.

An airport spokeswoman said: "The pilot of a landing scheduled air service sighted a drone being flown within the Newquay Air Traffic Zone and adjacent to the final approach to the airport.

"Although on this occasion there was no danger of collision, ATC reported this incident to the police as the drone should not have been flown in that area without ATC clearance and posed a potential danger to incoming flights."

In response to a Freedom of Information request by the i newspaper, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reported a rise in near-misses between drones and planes, with 15 close calls in the first third of 2016.

The number accounted for more than half of the total of 29 in the previous year, with 16 described as posing a "serious risk of collision"

Rules established by the authority warn drone operators not to fly higher than 400ft (122m) and clearly state that drones should be kept away from aircraft and airports.

Further "serious risk" incidents in the last few months include a report of a drone flown 100ft (30m) from a Boeing 757 jet during a "critical phase of flight" near Manchester Airport.

Another involved a device just 82ft-164ft (25m-50m) from a Boeing 737 airliner as it was flying at 3,000ft (914m) near Stansted Airport in Essex.

This latest spate of drone near-misses has led to calls for tighter regulations on drone use and for devices to be registered to their owners.

Following the incident at Newquay Airport, a Flybe spokeswoman said: "Flybe can confirm that the aircraft in question was an ATR-72 owned by a third party airline operating this service on behalf of Flybe.

"The safety of its passengers and crew is Flybe's number one priority and we will always work closely with all relevant authorities to help identify the perpetrators of any such activity that may jeopardise this."

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