Airbus A321 and drone narrowly avoid each other at 3,000 meters

On January 3, 2024, a plane crash was narrowly averted in the United Kingdom. An Airbus 321, which was flying at about 10,000 feet when it came within two meters of the drone, was about to land at London’s Heathrow Airport.

An Airbus A321 operating from Athens to London Heathrow encountered a drone in the skies over Kent, UK last January. A head-on collision that could have been dramatic, but an accident was averted.

A collision was narrowly avoided

A British Airways flight carrying 180 passengers to London Airport Rajinda Sandesh. It is at about 9,500 feet and entering a holding pattern before its final approach to London Heathrow Airport. Suddenly, the pilots saw through the window, “an object to the right of the nose, at the same level and extremely close”. A report by the UK Airprox Board, the Aerial Investigation Office, specified that the device was “small, but had a distinctive drone-like shape. The object passed over the right side of the plane and over its right wing.” And that the device hovers just 5 feet (1.50 m) above the Airbus A321’s wing and just 30 feet (10 m) from the cockpit.

The UK Airprox Board, which assesses aviation incidents, classifies this as a near miss Category A event : This means there was a high risk of collision.

24 times the legal limit

In the UK, the legal maximum height for flying drones in the UK is only 400 feet (about 120 meters). However, when its path crosses the plane, the small plane flies 24 times higher than the authorized limit.

“We take these matters extremely seriously and our pilots report incidents so that the authorities can investigate and take appropriate action,” a British Airways spokesman said. The drone operator has not been caught and the incident raises many questions. British authorities point out that in the case of endangering an aircraft, a person can be jailed for up to five years.

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