Unmanned area vehicles blamed for more incidents involving airliners

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The UK Airprox Board (UKAB) has reported three more incidents in which unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) came alarmingly close to airliners. All three occurrences were rated as being in the highest category for risk.

According to UKAB, two incidents occurred July 20, 2016.

In one encounter, an Embraer E190 regional jet climbing out of London City Airport (the UKAB does not identify airlines involved in such incidents) was undertaking a right-hand turn passing 2,700 ft. when the first officer spotted a UAV in the 11 o’clock position, slightly above the aircraft. It passed down the left side of the E190, with the crew estimating the miss distance as 30 ft. vertically and 65.6 ft. horizontally.

The UKAB said “chance played a major part” in a collision being avoided.

In the second incident that day, a Boeing 767 was on short finals to runway 23R at Manchester Airport, northwest England, when an object passed down the right side of the vehicle at cockpit height, with the crew estimating it to be so close that it must have passed over the wing.

From the crew’s description of the bright yellow UAV, approximately 60 cm. in diameter, the board’s verdict was that it was carrying an underslung camera.

The final incident involved an Airbus A320 in a holding pattern over Biggin Hill Airport, southeast London. Descending to FL110, the first officer spotted a small object in the one o’clock position, closing very rapidly with the aircraft. He estimated the football-shaped UAV, fitted with a flashing magenta light, passed between 20-40 m horizontally from the A320 and the aircraft had no opportunity to avoid it.

The UAV operator was not traced in any of the cases.

There has been growing concern that a UAV will be ingested by an engine as the aircraft is in “low and slow” mode, either on approach or immediately after takeoff. A particular problem seems to be the use of UAVs to carry cameras aloft to film aircraft on approach to runways.

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