Virgin Atlantic Flight 10 Feet From Colliding with Drone Over London
A Virgin Atlantic flight over London came feet from colliding with a drone over London. The information is included in a report by a UK agency that investigated the incident. The near-miss is considered the closest call of a passenger jet and a drone.
According to The Mirror, a Virgin Atlantic flight came within 10 feet of striking a drone over London. The incident happened on June 25, 2018, and the UK Airprox Board said there was a “definite risk” of collision.
In a statement from Virgin, the airline said, “Virgin Atlantic can confirm that pilots operating flight VS301 from Delhi to London on 25 June reported seeing a drone approximately 20ft from the aircraft on their approach into Heathrow.” The airline suggests the drone was 20 feet from the aircraft rather than the 10 feet included in the government report.
The government report stated, “The drone was being flown beyond VLOS limits and on an airfield approach path such that it was endangering other aircraft at that altitude and position.” It therefore suggests that the drone operator was operating in a no-fly zone for drones. It also points to the danger involved stating, “The Board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.”
According to the report, the plane was traveling at 250 mph at 3,200 feet over Clapham Common, south of London. The drone passed underneath the wing of the aircraft. A collision with the wing could have been devastating for the passenger jet.
Hits and Near-Misses
This is not the first time a plane had a near-miss or an actual hit. In 2014, a US Airways flight nearly collided with a drone near Tallahassee Airport. In 2017, an Air France flight from Paris to Dulles almost collided with a drone on approach to Dulles. Also in 2017, the nose of a Linhas Aereas de Mocambique flight was ripped apart when it collided with a drone.
In the United States, the FAA and Congress have sought to clarify how to handle drones. The recent FAA reauthorization signed by President Trump earlier this month seeks to change the drone rules. However, it’s unclear how even rules would prevent this incident. The reports declares that the person was already violating established rules against flying in that area. The United States also has limitations on flying near airports. In this case, the rule was violated so it isn’t clear how more rules would have prevented this incident.
As a drone owner and operator myself (for pleasure, nothing commercial), I find it astounding that people take such risks. It is very easy to make yourself aware of fly zones and aircraft patterns. Drone operators have to be responsible. Lives hang in the balance when irresponsible drone operators don’t take that seriously.