Airline Pilots Report Drone Sightings On SeaTac and PDX Airport Approaches
The Federal Aviation Administration says reports of unsafe flying by civilian drones "have increased dramatically" over the past two years.
A review of the FAA incident database found dozens of reports from all over the Northwest. The incidents include near-misses with small private planes, a near-midair collision with a National Guard A-10 fighter based at Boise's airport and a disturbing number of cases involving passenger airliners.
Flying drones around manned aircraft and airports is dangerous and illegal. SeaTac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper said this is a difficult crime to solve.
"Whether you even get the right location is a bit of a guess,” Cooper said. “Then once you get there, usually the potential culprit is already gone."
Six recent drone sightings came from airline cockpits during landing approaches to SeaTac or Portland International. The pilots were flying Boeing 737 jets for Delta, Southwest, Alaska and American Airlines. The incident reports indicate the jet pilots did not take evasive action.
The FAA uses the term unmanned aircraft system or UAS to describe drones. The agency along with industry groups is promoting a smartphone app called B4UFLY as well as "geofencing" software onboard new drones to help hobby pilots steer clear of danger.
The FAA said it now receives more than 100 reports each month from across the nation of unsafe drone flying.
Selected incidents in Pacific Northwest skies reported by airlines to the FAA between August 2015 and September 2016:
- Aug. 23, 2015 - Alaska Airlines Flight 60, a Boeing 737 inbound to Seattle from southeast Alaska, observed a black and gray UAS off the left side of the aircraft as the jet was descending from 6,000 feet to 5,500 feet altitude. No evasive action taken, but Kingston (Washington) Police Department notified.
Correspondent Emily Schwing contributed to this report.
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