JetBlue pilot: Drone in flight path at Fort Lauderdale airport
A JetBlue flight reported a small drone flew near its approach path while landing at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Monday morning.
The pilots didn’t have to take evasive action and the twin-engine jetliner landed safely, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The plane had taken off from Pittsburgh.
“The crew of JetBlue 2007, an Airbus A320, reported seeing a unmanned aircraft system on approach to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at 9:37 a.m. today,” the FAA said in a statement. “The FAA will investigate.”
The incident occurred about 15 miles west of the airport, while the pilots were in contact with Miami Approach Control. According to the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the drone was about 1,000 feet above the airliner at the time.
The Sheriff’s Office dispatched its helicopter to search the approach area but didn’t spot the drone. Although the drone wasn’t in violation of any airspace restrictions, BSO notified the FBI.
The incident was one of the first in South Florida involving a drone near a commercial airport or major event. In March, a drone was seen hovering near a West Palm Beach golf course, where President Barack Obama was getting in around, according to WPLG Channel 10.
Nationally, drones are becoming an increasing problem for airports.
So far this year, there have been almost 700 incidents where pilots reported seeing drones near airports, almost triple the number in 2014, according to FAA statistics.
Many of those were near New York City or Washington, D.C. airports. On March 22, a U.S. Airways regional airliner almost collided with a drone near Tallahassee.
Since June 1 alone, there have been 25 incidents were an airliner came close to hitting a drone, according to The Washington Post. However, there has yet to be a collision between the two.
Most of the drones are small, camera-equipped models commonly used by hobbyists and photographers. Although they usually weigh less than 10 pounds, aviation safety experts say if a drone were to be sucked into a jet engine or strikes a propeller, the larger plane could easily be put in jeopardy.
“The potential for catastrophic damage is certainly there,” Fred Roggero, a retired Air Force major general who serves as a consultant to companies seeking to fly drones commercially, told The Washington Post.
In response to the growing dangers of drones, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, proposed much tighter reins on drone use to keep them clear of major airports.
He would like to see drone manufacturers implement technology to prevent them from coming within two miles or 500 feet above airports, parades and sporting events.
His bill also would encourage the FAA to enact policies forbidding drones to come near other “sensitive locations,” such as important government buildings.
“God forbid a drone was sucked into the engine of a passenger airline that was flying, it’d be a huge tragedy,” Schumer said. “And it’s a matter of time before that happens.”