British Airways flight from Stockholm came within 50ft of smashing into a DRONE 8,000ft over London as it landed at Heathrow, report reveals
- The illegally flown drone flew just 50ft under the planes nose as it came into land
- UK Airprox board said there was a ‘high risk’ of crash with 144-seater plane
- Pilot described drone as ‘large quadcopter’ with a ‘bulbous’ camera
- Airbus A320 from Stockholm was flying at more than 280mph at the time
- A crash at this speed could have caused serious damage to the plane
The 144-seater Airbus A320 flying from Stockholm was flying at more than 280mph when it nearly hit the illegally flown drone 8,000ft over north London.
It is not currently known who was flying the drone at the time of the incident.
Te pilot of the British Airways A320 from Stockholm to London saw large black drone with ‘bulbous’ camera fly just 50ft under the plane’s nose as it came into land at Heathrow. The near miss on March 15 with the plane flying at 280mph was rated as the highest risk, category A. Pictured: File photo of a drone with a BA plane landing at Heathrow in the background
The pilot had just left a holding stack – a queue of planes which spirals down when they are unable to immediately land – when the drone ‘passed 50ft below the nose of the aircraft’.
The device was described as ‘a large black “quadcopter” drone with a large, bulbous, round camera’, according to a report by the UK Airprox Board which investigates near misses.
Investigators rated the incident at 8.52am on March 15 this year as the highest possible risk – category A near miss – saying there was a serious risk of collision.
The pilot had just left a holding stack when he saw the drone nearly smash into his plane 8,000ft over north London. Pictured: The aeroplanes flight path of the Stockholm to London flight as it came into land as show on Flightradar24
What are the rules for flying drones safely in the UK?
- The Civil Aviation Authority enforce the rules around flying drones
- You must pass the CAA theory test before flying a drone more powerful than a toy
- You must always be able to see your drone without binoculars, a telephoto lens or electronic viewing equipment such as a phone or VR
- If you fly first person through VR goggles you must have an observer with you
- Maximum altitude is 400ft (120m)
- Look out for aircraft flying below this such as air ambulances and police helicopters
- Do not fly closer than 50m to people, buildings or vehicles
- Keep 150m away from residential, recreational, commercial and industrial areas
- Stay away from airports, airfields, spaceports and aircraft
- You can face five years in prison if you endanger an aircraft
Source: Civil Aviation Authority
Flight tracker records show the airliner was a BA flight from Stockholm, Sweden, to Heathrow.
The report added: ‘In the Board’s opinion the description of the object was sufficient to indicate that it was a drone.
‘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.’
Drones are normally restricted from flying higher than 400ft or out of sight of the operator, and it is a criminal offence to fly anywhere near an aircraft.
Operators breaking the rules by flying close to a plane can potentially be convicted of endangering an aircraft which carries a maximum jail sentence of five years.
MailOnline has contacted British Airways for a comment.
The incident follows a series of other reported near misses between drones and passenger aircraft in UK airspace.
It is believed that most cases involve rogue operators flying their devices to illegal heights to try and get dramatic videos of aircraft flying by.
Pilots have repeatedly warned of the danger of small drones smashing cockpit windows or potentially damaging jet engines, especially during critical times when aircraft are coming in to land or have just taken off.
Research has shown that high speed crashes between drones and planes can cause catastrophic damage.
The University of Dayton simulated a collision in 2018 by shooting a drone out of a cannon into a plane wing – tearing the wing up with its spinning propellers.