Drone came within just 20ft of smashing into Airbus A320 with 186 passengers on board moments after it took off from Gatwick, report reveals
- Plane took off from Britain’s second busiest airport on Sunday, May 19 this year
- Incident happened around six miles from the Sussex airport at height of 3,000ft
- Airline operating the plane was not identified in report by the UK Airpox Board
An airliner carrying up to 186 passengers came just 20ft away from potential disaster when a drone passed by shortly after take-off, a report has revealed.
The two pilots of the Airbus A320 saw the drone flash past their cockpit while they were flying at around 260mph some six miles from the Sussex airport.
At around 3,000ft over the ground, the drone would have been flying nearly eight times the legal maximum height for drones of 400ft (120m).
The dramatic close call on May 19 happened just five months after Gatwick was brought to a standstill for 33 hours due to drone sightings over the runway.
The two pilots of the Airbus A320 saw the drone flash past their cockpit while they were flying at around 260mph some six miles from the Sussex airport (pictured)
With the Airbus A320 (stock image) at around 3,000ft over the ground, the drone would have been flying nearly eight times the normal maximum height for drones of 400ft
A report by the UK Airpox Board which investigates near misses said the aircraft was in a left turn when ‘the First Officer sighted a small drone fly past the nose and down the left-hand side of the aircraft. ‘
It added: ‘The Captain then sighted the drone miss the port wingtip by about 20ft. It was described as approximately a metre in length and black in colour with blue markings.’
The sighting – which took place a couple of minutes after take-off – was reported to air traffic control, but it is believed that the drone operator was never traced.
The report rated it as the highest possible Category A incident where there was a serious risk of collision.
The drone sighting (stock image) was reported to air traffic control, but it is believed that the drone operator was never traced
The dramatic close call on May 19 happened just five months after Gatwick was brought to a standstill for 33 hours due to drone sightings over the runway (pictured, queues which formed after the drone incident)
It also ruled that the drone was ‘endangering other aircraft’ while being flown above the maximum permitted height.
RULES FOR DRONES
You must not fly above 400ft (120m) and must keep a direct line of sight.
You must not fly your drone near emergencies such as car crashes, firefighting, and search and rescues.
You can only fly drones during the day.
You must not operate your drone in restricted areas such as near airports.
You must not fly above crowded areas such as sporting events and beaches.
The report added: ‘The Board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.’
The drone operator – who has not been caught – could have faced a jail sentence of up to five years if convicted of endangering an aircraft.
Sussex Police are still investigating the disruption caused by drone sightings at Gatwick which led to 1,000 flights being cancelled just before Christmas.
It was revealed earlier this year that officers had taken 130 witness statement and made 1,100 door to door inquiries while trying to trace the drone operators.