An Envoy Air passenger plane reported striking a drone while departing Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Sunday, in what is the just most recent incident of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) endangering commercial craft in restricted airspaces around the globe.
Sunday incident comes as collisions and near-misses between drones and passenger planes rise
Sunday’s collision of the Embraer 175 passenger plane and a drone is one of the most alarming in a recent flurry of reported impacts and near-misses. Envoy Air’s flight ENY396 returned to O’Hare shortly after its regular 6:20 p.m. evening departure for Detroit, after pilots reported striking something at 12,000 feet. The plane landed safely with no injury to passengers or crew. Audio files of exchanges with air traffic control that night recorded pilots radioing in the collision shortly after it occurred.
“Departure, Envoy 3961, we just hit something,” a crew member is heard saying. “I believe we hit a drone about 30 seconds ago. We’d like to return to O’Hare.”
The pilot initially flew a holding pattern to burn off some of the craft’s fuel before getting landing approval from air traffic control, requesting on-ground intervention once there.
“We might want someone to look at… to inspect the airplane when we get on the ground,” the pilot says in the recordings.
It was later confirmed that the Envoy flight had gotten about four miles northwest of O’Hare before it struck the drone. According to a specialized air traffic site, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) preliminary notification on the incident said the “aircraft was in a climbing left turn and struck a UAS, Chicago, IL.” It rated the resulting damage as minor.
Once landed, the Embraer remained in Chicago for the night before being shuttled to a nearby facility and eventually put back into flight rotations on Monday.
Drone flights near airports and around passenger planes are, of course, prohibited by FAA regulations. So, too, are UAV missions at 12,000-foot altitudes of Sunday’s collision.
The incident comes amid a rising number of cases of drones violating restricted airspace.
As DroneDJ reported, it was revealed Friday that a Cessna plane sustained “major damage” after being struck by a York Regional Police drone earlier in August – a serious incident in the Toronto region that leaves many questions yet to be answered.
A JetBlue passenger plane reported a drone passing below it about six miles northeast of Boston Logan International Airport as it was landing on August 15. There have also been several near-miss cases in Europe of late, involving both commercial craft and air ambulances.