An unmanned drone came about 200 feet (61 meters) away from a Lufthansa commercial jet, nearly causing a deadly crash at LAX. The incident already has at least one lawmaker in an uproar, and near collisions are becoming more common and dangerous, especially in California.
The pilot called it in at about 2 p.m. Friday afternoon. His Lufthansa jet was coming in to land at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) when the drone appeared. The passenger aircraft was still 5,000 feet (152 meters) in the air and 14 miles (22.5 km) east of the airport. The drone reportedly flew 200 feet above the jet for a brief time. Lufthansa hasn’t commented.
Now, the police are on a manhunt for the owner.
Authorities fear that drones will get sucked into the engine or smash a cockpit wind-shield in a commercial airliner if they fly too close, causing a crash. Considering the populated suburbs around LAX, a mid-air collision with a jumbo jet like the Lufthansa craft, could result in devastating carnage.
But that doesn’t stop many hobbyists from flying their drones there. Reuters reports that 42 incidents around LAX were reported to the FAA since April 2014. On a national level, California ranks first in near collisions between aircraft and unmanned aircraft with roughly 200 reports, accounting for 20 percent of America’s total.
It’s little wonder why U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has taken up the issue of drone safety, and has fought for tougher restrictions on the increasingly popular aircraft.
She was quick to point to the Lufthansa jet incident as another sign that more needs to be done.
“This is one more incident that could have brought down an airliner, and it’s completely unacceptable. A near-miss of 200 feet should serve as a stark reminder of the dangers posed by reckless drone use.”
Feinstein introduced legislation last year that would require the FAA to come up with stricter rules about where drones could fly and require manufacturers to install safety software to prevent flying the aircraft in dangerous locations.
The senator sent a letter to the FAA in 2014, citing three other near-misses with commercial jets to show the need for stronger rules.
Right now, there aren’t too many set rules for hobbyists on a federal level. MSN reports that they are warned from flying within five miles of airports or above 400 feet. Operators can be fined if they endanger large groups of people or other aircraft.
Likewise, as previously reported by the Inquisitr, in December last year, the government started a national registry for drones and operators as young as 13 years old. Last month, the number of registered drones (325,000) surpassed the number of normal, manned aircraft (320,000) according to the FAA.
Some operators have been busted for reckless remote controlling. Last year, a man was forced to surrender his $6,000 drone system and promise not to fly unmanned aircraft for some time after driving his craft into the path of a police helicopter.
Drones have also grounded fire-fighters, preventing them from tackling the wildfires that blaze through California in the dry season.
It’s still difficult for law-enforcement to bust most reckless operators. In the Lufthansa jet near-miss incident, police have not reported any information about where the drone launched or landed, what kind of unmanned aircraft it was, or who was operating it at the time.
[Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]