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Air NZ jail plea follows near miss over Auckland

March 28, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Air New Zealand is demanding that reckless drone operators face prison terms after one of its international flights, carrying 278 passengers and crew, came close to striking a drone as the plane approached Auckland Airport to land on Sunday afternoon.

Pilots operating Air New Zealand flight NZ92 from Haneda, Tokyo say a drone came within five metres of their B777-200 as it descended to land in Auckland.

The incident is the second example at the airport this month of reckless drone use potentially endangering passenger safety. Flight operations at Auckland Airport halted for 30 minutes on 6 March 2018 when an Air New Zealand pilot reported a drone within controlled airspace.

Air New Zealand’s chief operations and integrity standards officer, Captain David Morgan, says serious drone incidents are on the rise. Policymakers need to protect the travelling public with greater education, tighter regulation and stronger penalties for irresponsible operators, he says.

“NZ92 was just metres away from a serious incident on Sunday. The pilots spotted the drone at a point in the descent where it was not possible to take evasive action. It passed so close to the incoming aircraft that they were concerned it may have been ingested into the engine.”

An inspection of the aircraft has shown that the drone did not go into the engine, but Captain Morgan says the time has clearly come for tougher deterrents for reckless drone use around airports to safeguard travellers, “including imposing prison terms in the case of life-threating incidents”.

Under current regulations, individual drone operators who breach Civil Aviation Rules can receive a fine of up to NZD 5000.

Captain Morgan says Air New Zealand is committed to pushing for tougher and more consistent penalties to raise awareness of the regulations around drone use – and the potentially serious consequences of breaching them.

Edited by Peter Needham

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