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U.K. Airprox Board: Airbus A321 passed within 5 feet of a drone near London-Heathrow Airport
29 January 2018

The U.K. Airprox Board (UKAB) published an event in which a drone passed within 5 feet (1.5 m) of an Airbus A321 near London-Heathrow Airport, U.K.

On October 25, 2017, British Airways flight BA573 was on approach to runway 27L at Heathrow Airport when the crew saw a 3 or 4 engine white drone pass over the first officer’s window at a range of about 5 feet. At that time the aircraft was flying at 1700 feet over Kew Gardens, about 10 km (5,4NM) from the runway threshold.
The crew considered that the drone passed close enough that it must have collided with the tail. No tangible evidence of collision could be found after landing by engineering staff and the aircraft was released back into service.

The UKAB considered the cause to be: “The drone was being flown in the vicinity of an airfield approach path and at the practical VLOS limit such that it was endangering other aircraft at that location and altitude. The Board agreed that the incident was therefore best described as the drone was flown into conflict with the A321.”
The Board considered that the pilot’s estimate of separation, allied to his overall account of the incident and his inability to avoid the drone 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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