Lufthansa plane nearly collides with drone near Warsaw

AP News
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Posted: Jul 21, 2015 10:55 AM

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A Lufthansa plane approaching Warsaw's international airport nearly collided with what appeared to be a drone, the first such incident involving the German airline, officials said Tuesday.

The near-collision occurred Monday afternoon when a drone passed within 100 meters (300 feet) of the plane arriving from Munich, according to Przemyslaw Przybylski, the spokesman for Warsaw's airport.

He said the incident didn't occur at the Warsaw Chopin Airport itself, but 5 kilometers (3 miles) away near Piaseczno, a town south of the capital.

Police were investigating to determine who operated the drone, which shouldn't have been where it was. It wasn't clear how large the object was.

Drones, unmanned flying aircraft operated by remote control, have been growing increasingly popular across the world, posing a threat to planes. In New York, a commercial airliner narrowly missed colliding midair with a drone as it neared LaGuardia airport in May.

In Poland, drones are inexpensive and easily available. Regulations largely ban them in a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius around airports. But Przybylski, speaking on TVN24, said airport authorities aren't able to check whether "some idiot does not suddenly decide to fly a drone in front of a landing plane."

Lufthansa spokeswoman Bettina Rittberger was more hesitant about declaring the object a drone. She said that "a black object appeared on the right side of the plane," an Embraer 195, at an altitude of 2,500 feet (760 meters) and that the crew "supposed that this object could be a drone." She said she couldn't give more details until the investigation produces more results.

"Lufthansa had not encountered a similar situation before," she told The Associated Press in an email.

Mikolaj Karpinski, with the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency, told the TVN24 broadcaster that the pilots immediately reported the drone to air traffic controllers, who redirected the plane's path. Karpinski said he considered the incident serious.

The agency said that after the incident it redirected more than 20 other arriving planes. It said helicopters and an air force plane flew over the area where the drone appeared but didn't find it.

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Monika Scislowska contributed to this report.