After the significant disruption caused at British Airports by drones, you’d think people would learn. Apparently not, as yesterday yet another drone flyer caused chaos, this time in the US.
Reports of a sighting of not one but two drones close to Newark Liberty International in northern New Jersey caused flights to be halted. As the largest airport in the New York metropolitan area, even a brief stoppage of flights can cause massive delays all across the aviation network.
The drones were reported to be flying close to the airport and were spotted by incoming planes preparing to land. They said they saw them flying at around 3,500ft, directly above another airport, Teterboro, around 17 miles to the north.
The drones were spotted at approximately 17:00 yesterday, and flights arriving into Newark were held for a ‘short duration’ until it was certain that the flight path was clear. No further sightings have been made since, and flights have resumed, although the disturbance has caused delays to arrivals of around 55 minutes on average.
Normal #EWR operations have resumed after arrivals were briefly held by the FAA due to reports of drone activity north of the airport earlier this evening. We’re coordinating with the FAA & fully supporting all federal law enforcement authorities as they investigate this incident
— Newark Liberty Airport (@EWRairport) January 23, 2019
This comes less than a month after the UK’s second busiest airport, Gatwick, was shut for multiple days following drone interference, affecting tens of thousands of passengers travel plans. The closure was said to cost airlines millions, with low cost carrier EasyJet reporting a £15m ($19.5m) loss as a result of the grounding of aircraft. Heathrow also had a drone disturbance, although it was only closed for a very brief period.
Back in October, a Virgin Atlantic aircraft came within feet of hitting a drone which was being illegally flown in their flight path. This latest incident in the US is further proof that more stringent rules need to be applied to drone ownership, with traceability of operators implemented as quickly as possible.
Droning on about flying near airports
It might seem like a bit of an overreaction to close an entire airport due to a drone, but aircraft have been brought down in the past simply by birds hitting an engine. Drones are much larger and more solid, so just imaging the damage they could cause. In fact, no need to imagine, as there’s evidence right here in the video below:
Tougher rules are being applied to drone flying both in the US and the UK. In the UK, drone flights are restricted to 400ft (120m) or lower in height, and at least 5 KM away from the nearest airport.
The rules in the US are similar, with the height limit identical. The FAA guidelines say never fly near airports, although they don’t specify a particular distance which needs to be kept. Chances are this will change following this latest incident at Newark.
If you own a drone, or are thinking of buying one, don’t be stupid. Don’t fly near airports, simple.