UK easyJet flight involved in category A incident after 300mph near miss with illegal drone at 5,000ft
and live on Freeview channel 276
A new report reveals a mid-air crash was narrowly avoided after an illegal drone came within 16ft of a commercial easyJet flight travelling at 300mph. The easyJet Airbus A320 was 5,000ft above ground, having taken off from Gatwick Airport, when the pilots spotted the object nearby.
Officials recorded it as a category A incident – the highest level of five, which meant there had been a serious risk of collision. The incident occurred at 3.21pm on February 24 as the easyJet plane was climbing to a cruising height.
According to a report by the UK Airprox Board, which investigates collision risks, the pilot thought the object was a bird before deciding it was a drone being flown illegally. The maximum legal height at which drones can be flown in the UK is 400ft, meaning it was at more than 12 times the altitude limit.
Anyone caught flying a drone above 400ft or within an airport’s boundary faces an unlimited fine or up to five years in prison. The easyJet pilot immediately informed another plane in the area, as well as air-traffic controllers, who alerted other pilots taking off from Gatwick, the report says.
The report on the latest incident says: “The A320 pilot reports climbing through 5,000ft when the first officer exclaimed that there was a bird ahead. They looked and caught sight of a dark-coloured object at about the 11 o’clock that passed very quickly down the left side, within 5-10m of the left wing.
“It did not look like a bird but like a fairly compact ‘package’ that glinted in the sun.”
An easyJet spokesperson said: “We are aware of the report and will always fully support any investigation. Safety is always easyJet’s highest priority, and our flight crew acted in accordance with our standard operating procedures to ensure the safety of the flight was not compromised at any time.”