No one was hurt. The plane was undamaged and after being cleared was able to continue its flight. It could have been a major accident. A British Airways flight coming in for a landing at Heathrow Airport last week was struck by what appears to be a drone. If substantiated this would be the first such incident in the UK. The police are investigating amid worries about the growing use of drones in Britain. We already know about the dangers here in the US, where drone incidents are frequently in the news.
“Steve Landells, a flight safety specialist for the British Airline Pilots Association, told The Telegraph that it was “only a matter of time before we had a drone strike given the huge numbers being flown around by amateurs who don’t understand the risks and the rules.”
Earlier this year “the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents about 260 airlines in more than 117 countries, warned that drones flown by the general public are “a real and growing threat” to civilian aircraft. IATA noted that from January 2013 to June 2015, there were 856 reports of “remotely piloted aircraft systems” near airliners and airports.” (www.USAToday.com, 04/17/16)
Drones are supposed to fly below 500 feet. They are not allowed to fly within 5 miles of airports. Yet, statistics compiled by the BBC News in the U.K. cite reports of drones as high as 4000 feet and within visual distance of commercial aircraft.
So far there have been no serious incidents involving commercial aircraft but the potential for catastrophic loss of life is a real possibility. We know about the dangers of birds striking aircraft and causing damage to engines. Remember the plane that went down in the Hudson River in 2009? That was the result of geese knocking out the engines. Imagine the damage caused by a hard object, with batteries and electrical components. And think about drones flown by amateurs with no training and little regard for regulations or the safety of others. Here are some of the statistics:
- 2014- The FAA reports sightings of 238 civilian drones.
- 1-Aug. 9, 2015- 650 civilian drone sightings in the US.
- December 2015- More than 325,000 people register drones in FAA program.
- February 2016- FAA announces there are more drones in U.S. airways than piloted aircraft.
With the popularity of drones growing exponentially, many fear it is only a matter of time before there is a catastrophic event. We can only hope they are wrong.