Drones are useful tools for getting a birds-eye view of an area, but there are rules in place to prevent them from getting in the way of planes heading in to, or out of, an airport. On Friday, two planes by JFK airport in New York reported a near miss with a drone that was breaking those rules.
“Yeah about a mile back there was a drone flying just under the southwest side at the bottom of the airport here,” the pilot of Delta Flight 407, from Orlando, told air traffic controllers at approximately 5 p.m.
That flight, holding 154 passengers and five crew members, was the second plane to call in a sighting of the drone. In that case, the pilot indicated that the drone was less than 100 feet below its right wing.
JetBlue Flight 1843 was the first to report the near-miss with a drone. The report from the JetBlue pilot was heard by JFK authorities at just before 2:30 p.m., according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In that case, the pilot stated that the drone passed directly below the nose of the aircraft.
At that time, the plane was flying at an altitude of between 800 and 900 feet.
Neither of the planes had to take evasive action to avoid the drone, but a crash could have been devastating.
“These drones are made with aircraft aluminum, similar parts to, you know, the aircraft that it’s about to strike,” said Phil Derner of NYCAviation.com. “Going into an engine can destroy an engine, going into the cockpit window can injure a pilot or even kill a pilot.”
There is no evidence that suggests whether or not the drone that caused a near-miss with the Delta flight was the same drone involved in the near-miss with the JetBlue flight.
A drone is not allowed to fly within five miles of an airport without notifying authorities in that airport. Even if a drone were to fly close to an airport, it’s illegal for them to fly over 400 feet.
“It’s very, very concerning because having drones at JFK or any major airport was illegal even before the latest drone laws came into effect,” Mary Schiavo, an aviation analyst with CNN said. “What is happening now is there are some stiff prosecutions being handed out — including jail time — for lawbreakers. As the people get the word, they won’t do such idiotic things anymore.”
The FAA is investigating both incidents.
[ Image courtesy of Ethan Miller/Getty Images ]