Portuguese airline chief may ask to ground all drones following near-miss incidents

Portuguese airline chief may ask to ground all drones following near-miss incidents
The chief of Portugal’s national airline says he is considering asking authorities to ground all drones in the country. It comes after one of the airline’s planes nearly collided with a UAV, in the latest of a series of near-misses.

If drones “keep entering airspace, we’re going to call for them to be grounded,” TAP Airline President Fernando Pinto told Portuguese radio station TSF, as quoted by AP.

He went on to state that such a request could set off a worldwide movement against drones.

Pinto also spoke to public broadcaster RTP about the issue, saying that “due to the irresponsible behavior of some – and I’m speaking in a European and global context – [drones] are being used very badly, in a very dangerous way, and that worries us.”

His comments come after a TAP plane carrying 74 passengers narrowly avoided colliding with a drone as it approached Lisbon Airport on Sunday evening, according to air traffic control company NAV.

The drone came within 50 meters (150 feet) of the aircraft’s right wing when the plane was flying at an altitude of 900 meters (2,900 feet), according to Portuguese media.

The UAV’s operator was in violation of the law, which states that drones are only allowed to be flown up to 120 meters (400 feet) and must stay clear of airports.

The Sunday incident was the 10th to take place this year, according to the Portuguese Air Accident Office. Local media reported that it was the sixth to take place this month.

Planes flying into Lisbon Airport are particularly sensitive to drones and other hazards, as the airport is located inside the city, meaning planes have to fly extremely low over rooftops when landing. Any loss of control prompting a plane to spin into a densely-populated area could be catastrophic.

However, the problem isn’t limited to Portugal. Just last month, a Swiss passenger plane narrowly avoided a collision above Zurich, according to a report, with the country’s transportation safety watchdog stating that it has seen a surge in such incidents. 

In January, a passenger plane and a drone almost collided over a school in Birmingham, UK, according to a report which also noted a rise in near-miss incidents. 

Earlier that month, a drone slammed into a Boeing commercial aircraft while it was landing in Mozambique, causing substantial damage to the plane.