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Model aircraft nearly collided with U.S. airliner in March

A 50-seat US Airways jet nearly collided with a remotely operated model airplane about seven weeks ago in Tallahassee, Florida, a Federal Aviation Administration official said Friday.

The pilot told officials that he saw a small, camouflaged fixed-wing aircraft about 2,300 feet above the ground fly “so close to his jet that he was sure he had collided with it,” said Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’s unmanned aircraft office.

No damage was found after the plane landed, Williams said, speaking at a drone conference on Thursday. He added that the “risk for a small (drone) to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real.”

The aircraft involved in the March incident was not a quad-copter, which is commonly referred to as a drone, but nevertheless raises questions about regulations on remotely-controlled and autonomous hobbyist and commercial aircraft.

American Airlines, owner of US Airways, could not find evidence of the incident, which occurred near the Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida on March 22, The Wall Street Journal reports.

According to FAA guidelines, hobbyist aircraft should not fly higher than 400 feet and should steer clear of populated areas and large aircraft. The agency is expected to develop standards and guidelines for operating drones in U.S. airspace by September, 2015.


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