An Airbus A320 aircraft carrying around 165 passengers narrowly avoided a collision with a drone over central London, the latest in a series of incidents involving passenger jets in Britain, a new report said on Thursday. The plane narrowly avoided colliding with a drone while flying near The Shard, London’s tallest skyscraper, as it approached Heathrow Airport on July 18, was within 66ft (20m) of the device, according to the UK Airport Board report.
The report, based on the pilot’s observations, described the incident as a “very near miss”. The plane was at an altitude of 4,900ft (1,494m) when the drone was seen from the right-side flight deck window. The crew said the drone – described as black and about 50cm (20in) wide – “probably” passed above the right wing and a horizontal stabiliser, which is found on the tail of the plane.
The report said: “Members agreed that this incident appeared to be a very near-miss and that the drone operator should not have been flying in that location at that altitude.” It added that the account of the incident “portrayed a situation where a collision had only been narrowly avoided and chance had played a major part”. The incident was deemed to be in the “most serious” category of risk. The drone operator has not been traced.
“The proliferation of (small unmanned aircraft) and the difficulty in policing the regulations in terms of operating areas and altitudes, continues to raise considerable concern within the military flying community,” the report said, adding that while the police were notified, “unless the drone operator is found at the time of occurrence, little can be done.”
The incident is one of dozens of near-misses reported to the UK Airport Board each month. In a separate incident, also in July, a drone came within five meters (16 feet) of an A319 passenger plane taking off from Britain’s Liverpool Airport.