Heathrow: Two aircraft came within metres of ‘drones’ as runway closed

A drone flew within metres of an A320’s engine, while an “unknown object” was a few metres from a B7878’s wingtip.
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Two aircraft came within a few metres of collisions with “drones” as a Heathrow runway was closed, a report reveals.

On Saturday April 8 this year, at least five aircraft reported sightings of drones, or unknown objects, in the vicinity. One aircraft reported an object “a few metres from wingtip”, while another reported a drone “flew under the left wing, only a few metres from the engine”.

At one point, a runway was closed after air traffic control (ATC) was informed.

The incidents were revealed in a report to a meeting in May of the UK Airprox Board, which investigates near collisions.

The two close calls in April may have been different drones, with one described as purple or turquoise and the other as red.

A320 ‘3-10ft’ from drone

At 11.35am on April 8, an A320 pilot said a drone had been reported by the two pilots ahead at about nine nautical miles west, approaching Heathrow, at about 3,000ft. As the drone was off to the right, the A320 pilot decided to continue.

When the A320 reached the area, the drone “flew under the left wing, only a few metres from the engine”. At that point ATC closed the runway.

The pilot described the drone as a “round shaped drone with purple/turquoise colour”.

The report says the drone was “3-10ft” under the wing and that the risk of collision was “high”.

The report said: “The Board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.”

B787: ‘a few metres from wingtip’

On the same day, at 3.19pm, a B787 pilot reported that on approach to Heathrow, they had a possible drone sighting over Windsor at approximately 1,500-2,000ft

The report states that a “red object was seen passing the right-hand side of the aircraft at the same level, a few metres from the wingtip”.

The appeared stationary and was reported to ATC as a possible drone sighting.

The risk of collision was recorded as “high”, but the report said: “In the Board’s opinion the reported altitude and/or description of the object were such that they were unable to determine the nature of the unknown object.”

Again, the report said: “The Board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.”

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