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Heathrow Airbus collision 'not a drone incident'

No evidence of UAV impact, investigators say

The UK's Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, has told Parliament that what was thought to be the Britain's first recorded incident of a collision between a UAV and an airliner was probably "not a drone incident" after all.

A British Airways Airbus A320 flying in from Geneva was approaching Heathrow airport on 17 April when the incident occurred. The pilot told police "that an object believed to have been a drone had struck the front of the aircraft" at a height of 1,700 ft (580m) over Richmond Park in southwest London.

In an appeal for witnesses, the Metropolitan Police said: "Aviation Policing are working with partners from British Airways (BA), Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to investigate this incident, which is being treated as an endangerment of an aircraft under Article 137 Air Navigation Order 2009."

The BBC reports that investigators won't now probe the matter further because they "just don't have any evidence to tell them one way or the other" whether a UAV was involved.

The BBC's transport correspondent, Richard Westcott, notes that the unidentified flying object could have been "floating debris", and indeed previous reports have suggested a plastic bag as the culprit.

Back in January, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) demanded action over drones following a "a spate of serious near-misses" over UK airports.

Steve Landells, BALPA Flight Safety Specialist, said: "Pilots can see that drones can be useful and fun to fly, but these near-misses are becoming too regular an occurrence. We must act now to protect passengers and flight crew and make sure a catastrophic crash does not happen."

However, a US study published in March claimed the risk from drones has been wildly exaggerated, with birds being a far greater menace. ®

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