An US Airways Bombardier CRJ-200 aircraft almost collided with a drone above Florida earlier this year, a near-accident that rise concerns about the growing risk from increased use of unmanned aircraft, said Jim Williams, head of the unmanned-aircraft office at the Federal Aviation Administration. Mr. Williams revealed the incident publicly at a conference in San Francisco on Thursday.
US Airways Flight 4650 from Charlotte, N.C., was approaching Tallahassee airport descending through 2,300 feet and about five miles from the airport when it encountered the drone, which the pilot described “as a camouflaged F-4 fixed-wing aircraft that was quite small.” The remote controlled jet was more similar to a model aircraft flown by hobbyists rather than a so-called quadcopter that many see as the type of unmanned aircraft with commercial potential.
“The airplane pilot said that the drone was so close to his jet that he was sure he had collided with it,”
The CRJ did not appear to be damaged when it was inspected after the March 22 incident, Williams said.
But the incident served to highlight the risk of remote-control aircraft, he said.
“The risk for a small UAS to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real,” Williams said. “The results could be catastrophic.”
The FAA currently bans the commercial use of drones in the United States and is under growing pressure to set rules that would permit their broader use. Hobby and many law-enforcement uses are permitted.
Last year, the agency began establishing test sites where businesses can try out commercial uses. Two of the centers have started working ahead of schedule.
“The FAA is working aggressively to ensure the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace,” the agency said in a statement.
The March incident was reported to the Tallahassee control tower by the pilot for Bluestreak Airlines, a US Airways commuter carrier. US Airways is part of American Airlines.
The FAA investigated but could not identify the pilot of the drone.
During the conference at the Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo in San Francisco, Williams also showed videos of several drone accidents, including one in which a drone crashed into a crowd during the running of the bulls in Richmond, Virginia, last fall.
Photo: File – Wikipedia