BOSTON (CBS) – A near-collision between a plane and drone near Logan Airport in mid-August put the Massachusetts State Police Air Wing on alert.
It happened on Sunday, August 15 at about 7 p.m. The JetBlue Airbus from San Diego was on its final approach to Logan, flying at 8,000 feet, when it saw the unmanned aircraft high in the sky. The drone was flying just 500 feet below the plane, near Nahant Beach.
Pilot and flight instructor John Singleton says, for an aircraft, any kind of collision with a drone could be catastrophic, calling the encounter, “very dangerous” depending on where it hits.
Researchers at the University of Dayton demonstrated the kind of damage a small drone could do to the wing of a small airplane, and captured it in the video below.
But Singleton says the damage could be far worse if it hits an engine or windshield. One scenario, he said, would be that the drone could break the windshield, enter the cockpit, and seriously injure the crew, who would hopefully still be able to safely land the plane. And the worst-case scenario would be that the pilot or crew is killed and can no longer control and safely land the aircraft.
The FAA requires drones to stay below 400 feet and within line of the operator’s sight. Operators can register the equipment and get a license, but not everyone does, which makes finding a drone operator who is breaking the rules a challenge.
“The drones are too small for radar to pick up, so these are visual observations by pilots that are going hundreds of miles an hour,” said WBZ security analyst Ed Davis. “They’re past the location before they can even get on the radio, so it’s very difficult situation.”
Massachusetts State Police are investigating the August 15 incident. The Federal Aviation Administration says it gets about 100 reports a month from all across the country about drones flying too close to aircraft. There have been several reports from the Boston area so far this year.