Air France plane in near miss with drone last month

PARIS • An Air France Airbus 320 jet narrowly avoided colliding with a drone while descending for an approach to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport last month, French aviation investigation agency BEA said.

The aircraft had been operating a service from Barcelona on Feb 19 and was flying at 5,500ft (about 1,600m) when the co-pilot saw the drone. He disengaged the autopilot and carried out an avoidance manoeuvre while informing the captain of the drone's presence, BEA said on its website.

The drone passed just 5m below the aircraft's left wing, the agency said, classifying the incident as "serious".

An investigation is ongoing.

BEA's main concern is to find out how a drone came to be at 1,500m altitude - when the law prohibits flights above 150m off the ground - and was flying in a prohibited no-fly zone around the airport, The Local reported yesterday.

The news website said very few models of drones that can be bought on the open market are capable of flying at such a high altitude. Many also include software that prevents them from being flown in restricted areas.

While a passenger plane would be able to withstand any mid-air collision with a small drone, there would be serious complications if the object flew into one of the plane's engines. The impact could be catastrophic, especially if it occurred over a built-up area, according to The Local.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2016, with the headline 'Air France plane in near miss with drone last month'. Print Edition | Subscribe