A British Airways flight has struck an object, believed to be a drone, as it approached Heathrow Airport to land.
Police are investigating after the object slammed into the front of BA flight BA727 from Geneva as it approached Heathrow’s Terminal 5. The plane, an A320, landed safely. It was carrying 132 passengers and five crew.
British Airways engineers examined the plane following the incident and cleared it to fly, London’s Evening Standard newspaper reported.
Police at Heathrow had earlier tweeted: “Officers are currently speaking to a pilot who has reported a drone flying very close to his aircraft on approach to Heathrow.
“This is dangerous, it is also a crime. Please be aware of the rules before you start flying a drone.”
The strike is the latest incident involving drones in busy airspace around the world. Pilots and aviation safety authorities repeatedly warn of the danger. They are concerned that drones represent an accident waiting to happen – yet little is done.
In June 2016, a US regional passenger jet took urgent evasive action to avoid striking a drone on approach to New York’s LaGuardia Airport. The following month, a Lufthansa flight carrying 108 passengers narrowly avoided hitting a drone as it approached Warsaw’s main airport.
In September, pilots expressed serious concern after a drone nearly hit an Air New Zealand A320 with 166 passengers aboard in controlled airspace above Christchurch. Air New Zealand warned at the time that a trend of “reckless” drone use was emerging.
In the same month over London, a drone came within 20 metres of colliding with a passenger jet above the Houses of Parliament, the UK Airprox Board said.
Drones are proliferating rapidly. Most are flown by amateurs with little or no knowledge of air safety procedures.
Drones come in various shapes and sizes and their numbers are astronomical. Last year, a US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) task force on drones required anyone owning a drone heavier than 0.22kg and lighter than 25kg to register it before flying it outdoors. By early January this year, 181,061 drones were registered.
A few days ago, Australia Post announced it had started testing drones as a future delivery system for small parcels.
If drones are capable of carrying small parcels they could, in the wrong hands, carry much more dangerous payloads of similar weight. Security experts are aware of the sinister implications.
Written by Peter Needham