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Drone in near-miss with plane in skies above Biggin Hill Airport

PUBLISHED: 09:55 12 December 2016 | UPDATED: 09:55 12 December 2016

A modern remote-controlled drone

A modern remote-controlled drone

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Collision had been "narrowly avoided" as drone operators seek "ever more spectacular footage"

A drone came within 20 metres of a passenger jet in the skies above Biggin Hill Airport, according to an official investigation.

The near-miss between the football-sized device and an Airbus A320 took place while the plane was in a holding pattern over Biggin Hill as it waited for permission to land at Heathrow.

The drone, which had a flashing magenta light, passed next to the right wing of the plane 11,000ft above London at 6.05pm on August 4.

According to the report, the drone was spotted by the first officer but the flight crew did not have enough time to take action to avoid a potential collision.

Details were passed to the Metropolitan Police but the drone operator could not be traced.

The UK Airprox Board (UKAB) concluded that the person flying the drone had endangered the A320 and its occupants while flying in restricted airspace without permission.

A collision “had only been narrowly avoided” and chance had played a “major part”, the report noted.

The board warned that a minority of drone operators are “flagrantly disregarding regulation and common sense” in pursuit of “ever more spectacular video footage”.

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said: “It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to aircraft and airports. Anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including up to five years in prison.”

Biggin Hill Airport’s managing director Will Curtis commented: “If you are considering the purchase of a drone, or if you are already a drone flier, then please ensure that you do not operate it within at least two miles of the airport and always observe UK CAA regulations and never operate your drone above 400 feet above ground level.”

Some 59 near misses involving drones have featured in UKAB reports over the past 12 months.

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