A DRONE came within a few feet of colliding with a passenger plane over Edinburgh Airport in one of a string of terrifying incidents involving the unmanned aircraft in the last three years, a special investigation has revealed.
The crew of the EasyJet Airbus A319, which was coming in to land at around 3,700 ft, only saw the drone at a late stage and said there was no time to take avoiding action, official reports show.
The UK Airprox (Aircraft Proximity) Board examined the near-accident on November 25, 2016, and rated it a ‘serious incident’ - the highest risk rating.
It comes as newly-released documents show pilots have encountered five separate drones over the Capital’s airspace since 2016 - more than anywhere else in the country.
A further incident was reported to the board over Dunbar in 2016, one of 11 such sightings from across Scotland over the past three years.
Four of those were given category ‘A’ status by the board, which is funded by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
Drone sightings brought 36 hours of chaos to London Gatwick Airport before Christmas, with runways closed and 1,000 flights affected in what police described as a “deliberate act” of disruption.
Heathrow was also forced to ground flights after drone sightings in early January.
A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “Drones pose a very real danger to aircraft – not just in the environs of the airport, but as they approach and depart.”
He added: “The rules around usage are very clear and we’d urge all users to be responsible and ensure they stay within the law.”
In their report regarding the November 2016 incident, board members said that drones being flown near airfield approaches or at such heights “can be considered to have endangered any aircraft that come into proximity” with them.
They added that it had been a “situation where collision had only been avoided by providence”.
The drone operator could not be traced and board documents noted “the short battery life of drones means that, with a typical flying time of approximately 15 minutes, it is difficult for the police to respond and catch drone operators”.
As of July 30, 2018, it is against the law to fly a drone above 400ft or within 1km of an airport boundary.
Deputy Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for criminal use of drones, said: “Flying drones near to an airport is incredibly dangerous, reckless and a crime. Those who choose to behave in this way should be in no doubt that they face serious consequences and police will use all available powers to investigate and prosecute.”
“We are currently working with government, the CAA and others on future legislation to meet the challenges and risks posed by drones now and in the future.”
Drones have grown rapidly in popularity in recent years and can now be bought for less than £20 on the high street.
But a strike by a drone could break an aircraft’s windscreen or cause serious damage if sucked into jet engines or propellers officials have warned.
CAA spokesman Jonathan Nicholson said: “There are some very clear reports from pilots where often drones have been flown well above 400ft. We are very clear, the rules are very clear and people should know the rules.”