UPDATE 1-U.S. passenger jet nearly collided with drone in March -FAA

Fri May 9, 2014 7:22pm EDT
 
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(Adds FAA comment, details about the aircraft)

By Alwyn Scott

NEW YORK May 9 (Reuters) - An American Airlines Group Inc aircraft almost collided with a drone above Florida earlier this year, a near-accident that highlights the growing risk from rising use of unmanned aircraft, the U.S. air safety regulator said.

The pilot reported seeing a small, remote-control aircraft very close to his plane while preparing to land at Tallahassee Regional Airport, said Jim Williams, manager of the Federal Aviation Administration's Unmanned Aircraft System Integration Office.

"The airplane pilot said that the UAS was so close to his jet that he was sure he had collided with it," Williams said at an industry conference on Thursday, referring to an unmanned aircraft system.

The aircraft, operated by an American subsidiary, did not appear to be damaged when it was inspected after the March 22 incident, Williams said.

But the incident served to highlight the risk of remote-control aircraft, he said.

"The risk for a small UAS to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real," Williams said. "The results could be catastrophic."

The FAA currently bans the commercial use of drones in the United States and is under growing pressure to set rules that would permit their broader use. Hobby and many law-enforcement uses are permitted.   Continued...