Pi­lot Notes

Pilot - - CONTENTS -

The lat­est news and de­vel­op­ments in the world of gen­eral avi­a­tion

The in­crease in laser at­tacks on pi­lots, and drone near-misses with air­craft at UK air­ports prompted the Bri­tish Airline Pi­lots’ As­so­ci­a­tion (BALPA) to put for­ward a mo­tion at Septem­ber’s Trades Union Congress in Brighton call­ing for a greater com­mit­ment to im­prov­ing reg­u­la­tion from avi­a­tion au­thor­i­ties. It fol­lowed pub­li­ca­tion of fig­ures show­ing that re­ports of in­ci­dents in­volv­ing drone near-misses with air­craft in­creased from 29 in 2015 to 42 so far in 2016. There were 1,439 re­ports of laser at­tacks in 2015, with 55% of pi­lots say­ing they have ex­pe­ri­enced a laser at­tack in the past twelve months.

Leo Nu­gent, an airline cap­tain and mem­ber of BALPA’S Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil, said, “BALPA’S num­ber one mis­sion is to make ev­ery flight a safe flight. Over re­cent years two new sig­nif­i­cant threats have emerged and we need to deal with them. Firstly, lasers. Shin­ing high-pow­ered lasers at an air­craft is dan­ger­ous. It’s reck­less, and it’s il­le­gal. These at­tacks also usu­ally oc­cur dur­ing take­off or land­ing — the crit­i­cal phases of flight when the pi­lot’s ac­tions are sen­si­tive and time-crit­i­cal. BALPA has been cam­paign­ing for a long time for high-pow­ered lasers to be treated as what they are — of­fen­sive weapons.

“The sec­ond emerg­ing threat is drones. Drones are an ex­cit­ing new de­vel­op­ment for avi­a­tion, and, in­deed, we have opened BALPA mem­ber­ship to drone op­er­a­tors who will be grow­ing in num­ber in the com­ing years. But we need to make sure that drones do not pose a threat to air­craft. So far this year there have been 42 re­ports of near misses in­volv­ing drones. The Gov­ern­ment will be in­tro­duc­ing drone reg­u­la­tion in its Mod­ern Trans­port Bill in the cur­rent par­lia­men­tary ses­sion. The TUC should work to in­flu­ence this Bill to en­sure that safety is the pri­or­ity, so that the pub­lic is pro­tected, and so we can all fully em­brace the pos­si­bil­i­ties of drone tech­nol­ogy, safe in the knowl­edge that the risk is min­imised.”

BALPA Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Brian Strut­ton added, “We be­lieve it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore a ma­jor ac­ci­dent is caused by a drone col­li­sion or a pi­lot be­ing in­ca­pac­i­tated by a laser strike un­less some­thing is done to pre­vent it. The trav­el­ling pub­lic is en­ti­tled to ex­pect ev­ery flight to be a safe flight, but the in­creas­ing risk posed by drones and lasers makes that harder to main­tain. These risks must be ad­dressed and Bri­tish pi­lots urge the avi­a­tion au­thor­i­ties to act with­out de­lay to use reg­u­la­tory and leg­isla­tive pow­ers to en­sure that drones are in­te­grated into our skies in a safe and sen­si­ble man­ner and that the sale, use, car­riage and power of lasers are re­stricted.”

Mean­while, in the United States, where the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion has in­tro­duced new rules for com­mer­cial drone op­er­a­tion, it is es­ti­mated that the num­ber of their op­er­a­tors will quickly ex­ceed those of manned-air­craft pi­lots, reach­ing 600,000 within a year and thus equal to the to­tal num­ber of Faa-rated pi­lots from stu­dents to ATPS. The US Air Line Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion has raised safety con­cerns, call­ing for com­mer­cial drone op­er­a­tors to pass a flight test, and urg­ing that the FAA does more to reg­u­late recre­ational drone fly­ers.

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