Two more near misses have been reported by the UK Airprox Board. Both incidents involved passenger planes. One took place near Heathrow while the other was near Manchester Airport. The one at Heathrow was said to have been within a “wingspan” of a collision.
This is the latest in a long list of incidents that have caused pilots to call for stricter regulations of drone use. The UK Airprox Board is there to monitor the threat of midair collisions and three of the last six incidents investigated by them were in the most serious risk bracket. One of them involved a small light aircraft, with the other two involving larger passenger planes.
The closest calls were in late September of last year. An Airbus A319, which usually carries up to 180 passengers, landed at Heathrow. A few days later another incident happened when a turboprop commuter plane, which is thought to have been a LoganAir flight to Scotland, left Manchester airport.
The pilot of the Heathrow plane reported a drone helicopter hovered close to his flight path, leaving him unable to take evasive action when the drone came up to within 30 metres of his A319. Police were contacted about the incident but the pilot of the drone couldn’t be traced.
The plane at Manchester had taken off safely but when it reached an altitude of 3,000 feet the pilot saw a red and white drone pass less than 15 metres above the port propeller of the plane. Even though the aircraft was undamaged investigators into the incident said that it was a very close call and the fact a collision didn’t happen was mostly down to chance.
Pilots fear that the events they witness are only a small amount of the total number of near misses. They also say that this is indicative of a very worrying trend. The Balpa Union has called for drone users to register their craft and for more research to be done in to the possible effects an impact could have.
A spokesperson for Balpa said that we keep seeing these near misses happen at altitudes where manned aircraft are typically found, and near airports where there is no reason at all for drones to be there. They added that we need to find the people doing this and stop them before collisions happen that could result in a loss of life.
The small size of drones mean that pilots don’t notice them until it is too late to avoid them. Therefore the responsibility falls on drone pilots to keep them away from commercial aircraft and, most importantly, away from airports.
A spokesperson for Heathrow said that it is both irresponsible and illegal to use UAV craft without authorisation. They consider the safety of their passengers and colleagues their top priority. They also said they will continue to work with the CAA to prosecute anyone who does not follow airspace rules.
Wille Walsh, the chief executive of IAG, the company behind a number of airlines including British Airways, the biggest operator at Heathrow, said that drones were a challenge brought about by developing technology and is a situation that needs to stay under review.
The board released details of seven incidents involving drones last month. Four of those incidents were classed as high-risk.
The slightly frustrating thing about this news is that a small majority of flyers may ruin it the the rest of us due to their dangerous flying. Lets hope that people soon realise that flying a drone next to one of the busiest airports in the world is not a good idea.