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U.S. passenger jet nearly collided with drone in March: FAA

By Alwyn Scott

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An American Airlines Group Inc aircraft almost collided with a drone above Florida earlier this year, a near-accident that highlights the growing risk from rising use of unmanned aircraft, the U.S. air safety regulator said.

The pilot reported seeing a small, remote-control aircraft very close to his plane while preparing to land at Tallahassee Regional Airport, said Jim Williams, manager of the Federal Aviation Administration's Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Office.

"The airplane pilot said that the UAS was so close to his jet that he was sure he had collided with it," Williams said at an industry conference on Thursday, referring to an unmanned aircraft system.

The aircraft, operated by an American subsidiary, did not appear to be damaged when it was inspected after the March 22 incident, Williams said.

But the incident served to highlight the risk of remote-control aircraft, he said.

"The risk for a small UAS to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real," Williams said. "The results could be catastrophic."

The FAA currently bans the commercial use of drones in the United States and is under growing pressure to set rules that would permit their broader use. Hobby and many law-enforcement uses are permitted.

Last year, the agency began establishing test sites where businesses can try out commercial uses. [ID:nL2N0K90QW] Two of the centers have started working ahead of schedule.

"The FAA is working aggressively to ensure the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace," the agency said in a statement.

The March incident was reported to the Tallahassee control tower by the pilot for Bluestreak Airlines, a US Airways commuter carrier. US Airways is part of American Airlines.

The plane, a Bombardier CRJ-200, was a traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Tallahassee.

It was at 2,300 feet and about five miles from the airport when it encountered the remote controlled jet. The FAA investigated but could not identify the pilot of the drone.

American said it is "aware of the published report alleging an incident with one of our express flights and we are investigating."

The airline said it would share any information with the FAA and would not comment further.

The incident was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

In his address to the Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo in San Francisco, Williams also showed videos of several drone accidents, including one in which a drone crashed into a crowd during the running of the bulls in Richmond, Virginia, last fall.

The crash was caused by a battery failure and resulted in minor injuries, he said.

Williams also noted the "Miracle on the Hudson," in which birds hit the engine of a flight leaving New York, prompting an emergency landing on the river.

"Imagine a metal-and-plastic object, especially that big lithium battery, going into a high-speed turbine engine," he said.

(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Diane Craft)

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o2bncapecod May 09 2014 at 9:12 PM

And our government wants to okay the introduction of thousands and thousands of these things into the air to watch over us?

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2 replies
vobox3343 o2bncapecod May 09 2014 at 10:09 PM

I'll take a drone to a Republican idea any day. A drone is so much more intelligent, and gets a job done.

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1 reply
foubabou vobox3343 May 09 2014 at 10:35 PM

Remember that when a drone impacts with an EMS helicopter landing or taking off from an accident scene and 3-4 innocent people die. There has already been at least one incident where a drone taking pictures interfered with a landing helicopter.

Is that the job you're wanting to get done?

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silverbowl10 o2bncapecod May 09 2014 at 10:17 PM

The government is presently dedicated to killing americans.
The chemicals released in the skies above our nation is a genocide

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bigred8690 May 09 2014 at 10:00 PM

Where's the outrage from liberals? They want our guns but no one thinks about registering these stupid drones.

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1 reply
twiggymonsterone bigred8690 May 09 2014 at 10:11 PM

No outrage, just wondering who the UAV belonged to. There are strict regulations about flight altitudes and flight areas and was it civilian or military?

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eriesloop1 May 09 2014 at 9:37 PM

Mankind's folly, continued.

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rpersuhn May 09 2014 at 9:33 PM

Those jet engines are tested to withstand a frozen turkey thrown into them.

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3 replies
jcbstz May 09 2014 at 10:08 PM

Gee thanks Obama. You could have killed all of them and then you would have denied that you called for it.

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4 replies
Jeanne May 09 2014 at 9:27 PM

It's just a matter of time before one of these people operating a damn drone causes on accident with an airliner with a bunch of people on board, I hope they are proud of themselves when the kill everyone on the plane.

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larry May 09 2014 at 9:26 PM

I would hope the FAA would require anyone purchasing a Drone to have it registered and licensed so as to identify the drone if it were to collide with an aircraft or create injury or damage to property. Also insurance should be required and a fine for illegal operation of $50,000. Something as simple and as inexpensive as a "lazer pointer" has proven to be hazardous to pilots. Just imagine the damage that could happen if a drone collides with an aircraft. These drones need to be discouraged from flying more than a few hundred feet.

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1 reply
foubabou larry May 09 2014 at 10:16 PM

Lots of EMS and other commercial helicopters flying around at 500 feet and lower.

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chuck May 09 2014 at 9:51 PM

oboma doesent care. he needs to spy on americans so he can stay dictator

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3 replies
dawn May 09 2014 at 9:17 PM

the GOV or any one else do not need tp use these that high or near airports couple hundread feet is max any of them should be used

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ozalot May 09 2014 at 9:44 PM

It will take a drone or a laser to down an aircraft with 300 or more people on board before anybody gets serious about banning them!

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