So close that air crews could see their colours

Warn­ing about drones fly­ing dan­ger­ously close to planes

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS - By Robert Cum­ber

DRONES are pos­ing an in­creas­ing threat to air­craft around Heathrow Air­port, po­lice have warned, fol­low­ing sev­eral in­ci­dents in less than two months.

The ma­chines have been flown so close to planes near the air­port on oc­ca­sions that the air crew who re­ported them were able to see what colour they were.

The lat­est in­ci­dent hap­pened on Sun­day when a drone is be­lieved to have struck a BA plane com­ing in from Geneva. The plane was fly­ing at 1,700 feet, car­ry­ing 132 pas­sen­gers and five crew at the time.

The flight landed safely and there was found to be no dam­age to the air­craft.

Of­fi­cers have warned peo­ple they face up to six months in prison for fly­ing drones ir­re­spon­si­bly, or a life sen­tence if they are shown to have en­dan­gered the safety of an air­craft.

Any­one caught fly­ing an un­manned air­craft above 400ft or be­yond their eye­line can be con­victed un­der the air nav­i­ga­tion or­der 2009, which car­ries a max­i­mum sen­tence of six months’ im­pris­on­ment.

Should their ac­tions cause a pi­lot to take eva­sive ac­tion, they could be charged with en­dan­ger­ing an air­craft and jailed for life.

A spokes­woman for Houn­slow po­lice said: “We’re on the flight paths to Heathrow so peo­ple fly­ing drones should be sen­si­ble about how they do so and make sure they are op­er­at­ing within the law. It could be your loved ones on a plane above whose lives you are en­dan­ger­ing.”

The Gazette re­ported ear­lier this year how an il­le­gally op­er­ated drone came within me­tres of a plane land­ing at Heathrow. Pi­lots are also fac­ing the dan­ger of po­ten­tially blind­ing lasers be­ing de­lib­er­ately shone at planes around Heathrow , with recorded in­ci­dents hav­ing rock­eted re­cently.

A Heathrow spokes­woman said: “The unau­tho­rised use of un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles in prox­im­ity to an air­field is both ir­re­spon­si­ble and il­le­gal.

“Heathrow’s top pri­or­ity is the safety of our pas­sen­gers and col­leagues.

“The CAA pub­lished re­cently re­vised guide­lines on the use of UAVs and we will con­tinue to work with them and other part­ners to en­sure that any vi­o­la­tion of airspace rules is fully pros­e­cuted.”

If you see a drone be­ing flown ir­re­spon­si­bly, you can re­port it by call­ing the non-emer­gency po­lice num­ber 101.

n DAN­GER: There have been sev­eral in­ci­dents of drones fly­ing close to air­craft near Heathrow air­port

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