The drone incident that halted flights at Cork Airport earlier this week was the third in just over two weeks, it has emerged.
Cork Airport has confirmed that on April 4, a drone encroached on airspace at 10.15pm, delaying the landing of an incoming flight for around 10 minutes.
Several days later, another drone was spotted on the outer edges of the airport’s 5km ‘no drone zone’ exclusion area.
“No flights were affected on that occasion as the drone was further out but it did breach the exclusion zone,” a spokesman said.
These two incidents were followed by another on Thursday morning last, when two flights had to be instructed to maintain a holding pattern away from the airport while the authorities dealt with a drone close to flight paths.
The airport was shut to flights for 35 minutes and later flights were instructed to approach with extra caution as the drone had not been captured.
The spokesman said all three incidents had been reported to the gardaí and were now the subject of criminal investigations.
“We haven’t had a problem with drones until lately so we would hope that it’s someone who simply hasn’t realised there are regulations in place for the use of drones and that it’s illegal to breach them,” he said.
“If we can get that message out to everyone who buys a drone and impress on them how seriously the gardaí and airport management take this, hopefully, it won’t happen again.
“People have to realise that their activities have a knock-on effect on the operation of the airport, that they’re disrupting flights and breaking the law.”
The Irish Aviation Authority warned that anyone breaching the regulations could be fined up to €1,250 and jailed for a year in the district court, rising to €125,000 and three years jail in the higher courts.
It added: “The individual could [also] be charged under the normal criminal and civil provisions relating to reckless endangerment and other provisions relating to the general protection of life and property within the state.
"In the event of serious damage causing loss of life, charges for manslaughter or the various degrees of murder would be possible.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved