A police investigation is currently underway after a pilot reported his plane being struck by a drone as it approached Heathrow Airport, with 132 passengers on board.
The British Airways Airbus A320 was en route from Geneva, and thankfully landed safely at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
The object that struck the plane is believed to be a drone. So far, no one has been arrested, but this is a highly concerning event, despite the fact that the plane managed to land safely and was cleared to continue its flights by BA engineers, after a full examination of the aircraft.
“Frankly it was only a matter of time before we had a drone strike, given the huge numbers being flown around by amateurs who don’t understand the risks and the rules,” said Steve Landells, who is a flight safety specialist at the British Airline Pilots Association.
“It appears that no serious damage was done on this occasion, but what is clear is that while most drones are flown safely, sensibly, and within the limits of the law, much more education of drone users and enforcement of the rules is needed to ensure our skies remain safe from this threat.”
A sentence of up to five years in prison may be given to anyone found guilty of flying a drone near an airport. There are other rules which drone users must abide by, such as never flying a drone out of their direct line of sight, or above 400ft if it is heavier than 7kg.
There has been plenty of research looking into the effects of a bird hitting a plane in the air, but as yet, drones have not been tested out. The initial tests to discover the effects of one striking a plane may cost approximately £250,000, and pilots have been calling strongly for intense testing to take place.
Commenting on the subject of performing tests, Landells said: “The first thing we want to do is get a drone or at least the critical parts of a drone flying at a windscreen of an aircraft. The indications so far with computer modelling are that you’ll end up with penetration of a windscreen.”
“One possibility is that the battery smashes the windscreen and the inside layer of the windscreen shatters and you end up with a lot of glass in the cockpit, probably moving at quite high speed. As a pilot, I don’t want to be sitting there when that’s going on,” he continued.