Plane struck by drone near Heathrow Airport

Plane struck by drone near Heathrow Airport

A British Airways flight was struck by what is believed to be a drone as it came in to land at Heathrow Airport, police said.

The pilot of flight BA727 from Geneva in Switzerland reported being hit as the Airbus A320 bound for Terminal Five approached the London hub on Sunday afternoon with 132 passengers and five crew on board.

It is the latest and most serious in a string of incidents involving drones at the airport, with several near misses between flights and un-manned aircraft reported in the last year.

And it raises the issue of regulation and control of drones, especially in sensitive areas like airports.

BA said aircraft was examined by engineers and cleared to take off for its next flight following the incident.

Steve Landells, flight safety specialist at the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), called for greater enforcement and awareness of rules that govern drone flights.

He said: "Frankly 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."

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) "drone code" says the unmanned craft should not be flown above 400 feet and kept away from planes, helicopters, airports and airfields. Those with cameras fitted should also be kept 50 metres from people, vehicles, buildings and other structures.

A report in March by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) found there were 23 near misses between drones and aircraft in the six months between April and October last year, including two at Heathrow.

On September 22 a Boeing 777 that had just taken off reported a drone narrowly passed down its right hand side. Investigators concluded the drone was at the same height and within 25 metres of the jet. A report was made to police but the drone operator was not traced.

Days later, on September 30, a drone was flown within a similar distance of an Airbus A319 landing at Heathrow. The jet was flying at an altitude of 500 feet and was on the final approach to the west London airport when the drone was spotted.

The Government is also considering technology to restrict where civilian drones can fly amid growing concerns. Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said that ministers are looking at the possibility of introducing a drone registration scheme in the UK, similar to the ones already in place in Ireland and the US.

The Department for Transport has confirmed it is also talking to manufacturers about introducing so-called geo-fencing technology in their drones.

A CAA spokesman said it was "totally unacceptable" to fly drones close to airports and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said a pilot on an inbound flight into Heathrow Airport from Geneva "reported to police that he believed a drone had struck the aircraft" at around 12.50pm.

On investigation it transpired an object, "believed to be a drone", had struck the front of the aircraft.

No-one has been arrested and aviation police based at Heathrow are investigating, she added.

A BA spokesman said: "Our aircraft landed safely, was fully examined by our engineers and it was cleared to operate its next flight."

More in this Section

Campaigners criticise Boris Johnson’s ‘inflammatory’ message to migrantsCampaigners criticise Boris Johnson’s ‘inflammatory’ message to migrants

Brazil’s leader suggests he will send army to tackle Amazon wildfiresBrazil’s leader suggests he will send army to tackle Amazon wildfires

Life without parole for man who killed Spanish golfer on US courseLife without parole for man who killed Spanish golfer on US course

Transgender discrimination claim against The Times rejectedTransgender discrimination claim against The Times rejected


Lifestyle

The A-Listers hiding in plain sight: As Rihanna is spotted at the cricket, who are the celebs who have been living under our noses in Ireland? Ed Power reports.Celebs in plain sight: The A-Listers living under our noses in Ireland

IF you are the parent of a child who is about to venture forth into the hallowed halls of Primary education, or ‘Big School’ as every Irish mammy refers to it since the dawn of time; well, chances are you’ve probably been very active in your Google searches looking for tips and advice on how to ease your child, and yourself, into this next chapter.Out of curiosity, I searched online for ‘Back to school advice’

Aileen Lee meets Pearse Caulfield to talk life and design.'Necessity is the mother of invention': Meet Pearse Caulfield, owner of Caulfield Country Boards

More From The Irish Examiner