This incident once again shows that the need to educate the public is never ending.
For the past several years, people have been warning that it is only a matter of time before there is a serious incident involving an unmanned aircraft and a large commercial passenger plane. While there have been reports of sightings of UAS by airliners near airports, none of these events have resulted in injuries. This has led some to say that the threat to manned aircraft by UAS is largely overblown. Unfortunately, today we have a reminder that the risks are real, and that as UAS are integrated into the National Airspace System, everyone has to take safety issues seriously.
The Canadian Transportation Safety Board has announced that it is investigating an incident on Monday that resulted in the injury of two persons on a Porter Airlines flight from Ottawa to Toronto. The plane was forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision with what the flight crew believes was a UAS that crossed its path when the aircraft was making a landing at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. The two injuries were to flight crew, who were up securing the cabin for landing when the aircraft made its sudden dive.
Canadian transportation authorities are taking the matter very seriously, and have promised to speed up the issuance of their own comprehensive UAS regulations, which are expected to be released for public comment sometime in the spring of 2017. In the meantime, Canadian authorities are going to be stepping up their public education campaign to address the steadily increasing number of serious UAS interactions with aircraft. The Canadian Pilot’s Association is also pushing for Canadian authorities to implement a system of UAS registration for Canada similar to what the FAA put into place last year.
This incident once again shows that the need to educate the public is never ending. Given the way the technology is proliferating around the world, there continues to be an influx of people conducting aeronautical activities who do not have an understanding of how the system works or what is unsafe.
Except for this article from Mark McKinnon, the story hasn’t gotten any play in the US. It is reminiscent of the famous garbage bag sighting reported by a British Airways A320 in April 2016 on final approach to Heathrow. TheStar.com reported that:
OTTAWA—A drone? A weather balloon? A piece of garbage swept up by the wind?
Investigators with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada admit they have a puzzle on their hands to determine exactly what the pilots had to avoid.
“Nobody knows at this point. It happened so quick,” said Peter Rowntree, senior regional investigator with the safety board.
“We’ve got our work cut out trying to figure out what this unidentified flying object was. What did they encounter?” Rowntree said in an interview.
“It definitely wasn’t a bird. It was a fairly large object,” he said, describing it as up to three metres wide.
The plane was on initial approach, making 240 knots at 9,000 feet. Obviously something three meters wide (10+ feet) would be a hefty drone. As we recently reported, Canada is already tightening regulations on recreational flyers.
Whatever it was I am glad everyone was OK – it’s another good reason to keep your seat belt buckled in the not always friendly skies.
UPDATE Another sighting debunked.
The Transportation Safety Board says it has now closed its investigation into the incident, saying that the object doesn’t appear to have been a drone.
“The description and size of the object does not match any known commercial or consumer available unmanned aerial vehicle,” TSB spokeswoman Karine Eyamie said Wednesday. “The incident will remain identified as a near collision with an unidentified airborne object.”
No doubt the note in the personnel file will be something like “prone to seeing things.”