Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Dash-8 pilot calls near-collision with UAV ‘possibly catastrophic’

The pilot of a Bombardier Dash-8 regional airliner has described a near-collision with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) while on approach to London’s City Airport as “possibly catastrophic.”

The pilot’s description was recorded in an official report by the UK Airprox Board, which examines air proximity incidents in the UK.

During the April 19 incident, the Dash-8 was descending on its downwind right-hand leg for runway 09 at London City Airport. While 3 miles south of the airport, the pilot reported seeing a UAV around 200 meters away from the airliner and at roughly the same height, 2,000 ft.

After landing, the pilot and co-pilot agreed that the Dash-8 missed colliding with the UAV by about 50-150 meters. A Dash-8 passenger also reported seeing an object, but a review of radar tapes did not show any contacts in the vicinity.

According to the Airprox Board, there were a number of parks and open spaces on the flightpath where a UAV could have been operated from when the incident was reported.

The board said that because the crew had seen the UAV at such close quarters—having been able to read writing on it—they assessed the incident as a category B, causing the aircraft’s safety to be compromised.

In another incident six days later, the crew of an Army Air Corps Lynx helicopter reported a UAV directly ahead as the helo flew over Bristol in western UK The pilot was forced to make an evasive maneuver, passing the UAV within 30-50 ft.

The crew’s report stated the UAV had been difficult to see against an urban backdrop, but low cockpit workload meant they were able to detect the UAV in time.

“The pilot also commented that had the UAV not been sighted through effective lookout, and evasive action not been taken, a midair collision would have occurred,” the report stated, adding the risk of collision was very high.

The UAV operator could not be traced, and the incident was put into the highest risk category of A, meaning a serious risk of collision existed.

The UK Airprox Board has already reported a number of close calls between UAVs and commercial aircraft this year, but the Lynx incident is the first to be reported as a category A.

Concerns about the improper use of UAVs have prompted the UK Civil Aviation Authority to create a so-called “drone code,” advising users to operate their devices within line of sight. Flying an unmanned system near other aircraft could be construed as “recklessly endangering an aircraft in flight,” a crime that can carry a jail sentence.

Last week, the European Aviation Safety Agency started the ball rolling to bring in new rules to govern the use of drones, or UAVs, in the European Union.

(Tony Osborne - ATWOnline News)

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