A passenger jet, carrying 78 people, almost hit a drone while it was flying directly above a primary school, it has emerged. The aircraft was heading into Birmingham Airport last September when its pilot saw a drone.
Now, an official report from the UK Airprox Board has revealed that the pilot said he spotted a drone which was above a school at the same altitude as his plane was at as he prepared to land. It is not known which airline was involved in the near miss, but there have been increasing concerns about the use of drones in flight paths following a number of close calls.
The aircraft continued on its path and the pilot estimates that the drone came within 500 metres of it. West Midlands Police were immediately called but could not find the drone, or the person operating it. The school was also contacted to tell staff about the drone.
Lives at risk
The report issued a stark warning, saying that the person operating the drone had put the lives of the passengers onboard the DH8 at risk. According to statistics from the UKAB, there have been 60 near misses between planes and drones over the last 12 months.
The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) is now calling on officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to carry out research to find out what the impact could be if a drone did hit a plane carrying passengers.
Steve Landells, who is a former pilot with British Airways and the RAF says he fears that if a drone hits a plane, it could lead to engine failure, or the cockpit windscreen being broken. Current legislation bans drones from being flown above an altitude of 400ft, or close to airports or airfields. However, the DfT is currently considering proposals to improve drone safety, which could tighten those restrictions.