The pilot, with 216 passengers onboard, observed a drone in the aircraft’s flightpath slightly after 8 pm on July 25, 2023, flying at an altitude of 3,000ft.
British Airways Narrowly Missed Drone
The drone’s altitude, reported at 2,800ft, exceeded the legal maximum height for such devices by more than seven times. Although drones are typically equipped with height-limiting software, they can be modified using readily available online tools.
The incident, classified as category A by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB), indicates a serious risk of collision.
The UK Airprox Board (UKAB), responsible for evaluating risk incidents in UK airspace, disclosed that the aircraft was a mere 20ft above the drone and approximately 60ft away horizontally.
The report stated, “It was apparent that whilst it was very close, the drone would pass below and to their left. The drone was white, with multiple props but no lights.”
Following the incident, the pilot communicated to air traffic controllers that they “had passed a drone very close on the left-hand side when passing 3,000ft.” This information was relayed to the Heathrow control tower to alert subsequent departures about the presence of the drone.
UKAB Report Conclusion
The UK Airprox Board (UKAB) report concluded that “In the Board’s opinion, the reported altitude and/or description of the object were sufficient to indicate that it could have been a drone. 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.”
Although the drone operator was not apprehended, they could potentially face up to five years in jail for endangering an aircraft if identified. The motive is believed to involve capturing dramatic footage of an in-flight airliner.
Despite the close encounter, the flight reached its destination safely without disruptions. The frequency of near-misses between drones and planes has increased in the past decade, with data from UKAB indicating 125 incidents in 2019, compared to none in 2013.
A spokesperson from British Airways emphasized their commitment to taking such matters seriously, with pilots reporting incidents for proper investigation and action by authorities.
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