JetBlue Pilot Surprised By Drone During Florida Airport Approach: Are Drones Dangerous?

A surprised JetBlue pilot called in about a drone in his airspace over Florida on Monday morning, according to the Sun Sentinel. The pilot was heading to the airport in Fort Lauderdale on Monday when he spotted the drone and immediately informed Miami Approach Control of the sighting.

The sighting has prompted an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA released a statement about the sighting that said, “The crew of JetBlue 2007, an Airbus A320, reported seeing an unmanned aircraft system on approach to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at 9:37 a.m. today. The FAA will investigate.”

A transcript of the communication between the JetBlue pilot and Miami Approach Control was also released after Monday’s incident, and the communication clearly shows that the pilot was surprised to see the drone. CBS Miami shared the transcript.

“PILOT: ‘Miami. Jetblue 2007. Just advise you, we have a drone crossed over us about 1,000 feet.’

TOWER: ‘Say again.’

PILOT: ‘Just had a drone in our location cross over top of us about 1,000 feet.’

TOWER: ‘Attention all aircraft. Unauthorized drone reported about 15 miles west of Lauderdale International at 5,000 feet. Reported by an Airbus 320.’”

The Airbus 320 did not need to make any evasive maneuvers to avoid the drone, and there was no danger to the aircraft or the passengers on board the plane. The plane was in its final approach to the airport when the pilot spotted the drone at about 4,000 feet.

However, drones are becoming more of an issue when it comes to commercial airspace and near misses with planes. Since August, there have been 70 incidents involving drones reported. In 2015, there have been 700 drone-plane incidents reported. Out of those incidents, 25 reports involved near misses between drones and commercial aircraft. According to CBS Miami, the number of reported incidents could quadruple the number of reports from last year.

The use of drones is becoming more popular among flight enthusiasts, but that means the dangers are increasing, as well. Joe Mancino, a 7Skyforce pilot, shared his own thoughts on the incident and drone safety with WSVN.

“Maybe they’re not considering the safety factor? I’m flying 800 to 1,000 feet off the ground, 140 to 150 miles an hour and if a drone pops up in front of me… the aircraft windscreen is made out of Plexiglass. It’s not gonna be pretty if I smack into one going fairly rapidly. If I see one, and I’m moving quickly, I dodge it, and if it’s up too high, higher than the 400 feet than they’re supposed to be at, I report it. Keep them [drones] down low, keep them out of crowded air spaces. I’m sure that they will come up with some regulations, the more that there are sightings and close calls.”

Drones are becoming more high tech, and anyone can buy them. Buyers can go to Amazon or their local store to pick up a drone. According o a previous Inquisitr report, Disney released a Millennium Falcon drone just last month. It might not have the capacity of a high tech drone, but it does show that drones are becoming increasingly popular.

Jay Rollins, a former Navy pilot and American Airlines Captain, spoke about the new advances in drone technology with NBC Miami.

“I was at an event just yesterday at Marlins Park about Aviation Day. There was a display there of these huge drones. They actually have jet engines in them. These $10,000 aircraft are easily capable of flying like this, 200 miles an hour. Can you imagine something like that getting sucked in to the engine of a JetBlue aircraft?”

This is not the first time a drone in the Florida skies has caused national headlines. Last month, the Palm Beach Post reported on a drone flying overhead while President Barack Obama took in a round of golf in Martin County. The Secret Service spotted the drone during Obama’s March visit, and reported it to the U.S. Coast Guard. There have been two drone incidents at the White House in recent months, as well.

As it stands right now, FAA regulations state that drones cannot fly over 400 feet. The drone spotted by the pilot of the JetBlue flight was at 5,000 feet. A Sheriff’s office helicopter was dispatched to find the drone, but it was not found.

With the increase of incidents between drones and planes, the FAA is looking to tighten regulations, but those new regulations will not come until next year. For now, pilots are becoming extra vigilant about their approaches and in the skies near airports.

What do you think of this drone incident? Should there be tighter regulations in place?

[Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]