A British Airways flight from Rome to London Heathrow experienced a harrowing near-miss with an illegally operated drone, marking the second such incident in just five months.
The latest encounter involved an A320 jet, which was in the final stages of its journey to Heathrow, narrowly avoiding a collision with a drone at a height of 7,000 feet, traveling at speeds exceeding 280mph. This event underscores the growing concern over the safety risks drones pose to commercial aviation, especially when flown irresponsibly near airports.
The incident occurred approximately ten miles south of Heathrow, with the drone coming dangerously close, within 30 feet of the aircraft that was carrying up to 160 passengers.
Such encounters have raised alarms within the aviation community, emphasizing the need for stricter enforcement of drone regulations.
The earlier incident, which took place on April 8 of the same year, saw the same flight, also operated by Finnair on behalf of British Airways, come within just 3 feet of a drone while approaching Heathrow, highlighting the persistent threat drones pose to air safety.
The UK Airprox Board, responsible for assessing near-miss incidents, categorized both events as Category A incidents, signifying a serious risk of collision.
Aviation experts warn that drones, if they collide with an aircraft or are ingested by a jet engine, can cause catastrophic damage, particularly during critical flight phases like takeoff and landing.
Despite regulations restricting drone flight to below 400 feet, the drones involved in these incidents were flown well above this limit, demonstrating a blatant disregard for existing laws.
Finnair, the airline operating the flight for British Airways, confirmed the September incident, stating their pilots followed standard operating procedures to ensure the flight’s safety. This response highlights the airline’s commitment to passenger and crew safety, despite the challenges posed by unauthorized drone operations near airports.
The incidents have sparked a broader discussion on the need for enhanced surveillance and enforcement measures to prevent drones from endangering commercial flights.