British Airways flight carrying 216 passengers missed illegal drone by just 20ft while 3,000ft in the air over Windsor

7 December 2023, 13:45

A British Airways flight had a near-miss with a drone, a new report has revealed.
A British Airways flight had a near-miss with a drone, a new report has revealed. Picture: Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

A British Airways flight carrying over 200 people had a close call after it missed an illegal drone flying over Windsor by just 20ft.

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The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was flying from Heathrow to Montreal, Canada when the near-miss occurred.

Carrying 216 passengers 3,000ft in the air, the pilot spotted the drone in the plane’s flightpath just after 8pm on July 25.

The drone was flying some 2,800ft in the air, according to the report, more than seven times the usual maximum legal height for the devices.

Drones are typically fitted with software to limit their maximum height - but it can be altered using equipment bought online.

A report by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB) revealed the details of the close call, as it rated the incident a category A - meaning there was a serious risk of collision.

UKAB, which assesses risk incidents in UK airspace, revealed the plane was just 20ft above the drone and 60ft away horizontally.

The report said: “It was apparent that whilst it was very close, the drone would pass below and to their left. The drone was white, with multiple props but no lights.”

Air traffic controllers said the pilot radioed in that they “had passed a drone very close on the left-hand side, when passing 3,000ft”.

The information was then passed over to the Heathrow control tower to make those on subsequent departures aware of the device.

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The incident was described as a category A - meaning there was a serious risk of collision.
The incident was described as a category A - meaning there was a serious risk of collision. Picture: Alamy

"In the Board's opinion the reported altitude and/or description of the object were sufficient to indicate that it could have been a drone,” the UKAB report concluded.

“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”.

It is understood the pilot of the drone was never caught, but could face five years in jail for endangering an aircraft if they are ever found.

It is thought the pilot was attempting to acquire dramatic footage of an airliner in flight, according to the MailOnline.

Despite the close call, the flight arrived safely at its destination and faced no disruption.

Near-misses between drones and planes have been on the rise in the last decade as data from UKAB shows that while there were no near-misses in 2013, by 2019 there had been 125.

A British Airways spokesman said: “We take such matters extremely seriously and our pilots report incidents so that the authorities can investigate and take appropriate action.”

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