Closest encounter yet: Drone nearly collides with A320 airliner above Paris

© Srdjan Zivulovic
France’s aviation investigation agency BEA is looking into a potentially catastrophic close shave involving a remotely operated device and an Air France passenger Airbus near Charles de Gaulle airport. The drone came as close as five meters to the jet.

Having described the incident as a “near collision,” BEA aviation authorities classified it as a “serious” one, initiating the first-ever probe of its kind in the country.

The dangerous encounter happened on February 19, when the A320 jet which can carry some 150 people on board was beginning its descent towards the Paris runway, en route from Barcelona. When the plane was at a height of 1,600 meters (5,250 feet), its co-pilot noticed the drone and informed the captain of its presence.

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Having estimated that the flying device was only some five meters away from the huge jet’s left wing, the crew quickly disconnected the autopilot and proceeded to land manually, taking action to avoid a potential collision.

Air traffic control was informed of the buzzing drone, and the plane landed without incident. The remotely operated flying device was not located afterwards.

Not only are drones banned from flying near airports, but the law also prohibits their flying above 150 meters (492 feet) off the ground. It’s not easy to find a model capable of flying at an altitude of 1,500 meters on the open market, and more complicated devices are often equipped with software preventing them from being flown in restricted areas, The Local reported.

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While a collision with such drone would mostly likely not damage the fuselage of a large aircraft, it could still cause a lot of trouble if ingested into a plane’s engine, causing the risk to aircraft’s integrity. The owner could be fined up to €75,000 ($82,500) and up to a year in prison, according to French laws.