The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) says the British government should bring forward its programme of drone education and registration in the wake of a near miss over London that could have had disastrous consequences.
The Heathrow-bound B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, which would have been carrying as many as 264 passengers, was performing its descent above Clapham Common in June this year, when the drone was seen passing just three meters (10ft) below its right wing. There is significant evidence to show that a drone colliding with an aircraft could cause catastrophic damage, and BALPA urged the Department for Transport to tighten the laws to make it illegal to fly a drone within five kilometres of an airport without permission from Air Traffic Control.
This incident occurred despite heavily publicised new laws restricting drones to 400ft.
The aircraft was at around 3,200ft when it came in to conflict with the drone, which was flying at more than eight times the maximum legal drone height.
BALPA says people flying drones need to understand the rules of the air and has urged the government to consider bringing forward its requirement for drone owners to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and take online safety tests. (law due to come in to force on 30 November 2019).
BALPA Head of Flight Safety, Dr Rob Hunter, said:
“This near miss is further evidence that tougher laws and enforcement are required to keep drones clear of manned flights.
“The drone was being flown beyond visual line of sight and in conflict with aircraft approaching Heathrow Airport.
“That’s why we need the registration and education process in force sooner rather than later, so people flouting the law can be caught and prosecuted.
“At the same time, BALPA is also calling for the government to consider toughening the law to create a larger no-fly zone around airports.
“We need to ensure people flying drones take responsibility for their actions and do so responsibly with the knowledge that if they endanger an aircraft they could face jail.”
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