Drone ‘put 130 lives at risk’ with flight past Gatwick-bound plane

Gatwick Airport. Photo: Jon Rigby
Gatwick Airport. Photo: Jon Rigby

A drone which flew above the right wing of a plane approaching Gatwick put ‘130 lives at risk’, according to the captain.

The pilot had initially believed the small black object, which passed his aircraft at 8.35pm on Sunday, July 9, to be a bird, according to a report by the UK Airprox Board.

The co-pilot admitted that the ‘startle factor’ of the drone’s proximity nearly caused him to disconnect the autopilot for avoiding action.

However, the plane was landed successfully and the drone was reported.

The report stated: “A larger aircraft might not have missed it, and in the Captain’s opinion it had put 130 lives at risk.”

The drone was described as ‘very large’ – with an estimated diameter of about one metre and bearing four blades.

In the twilight conditions, the drone appeared black or dark in colour.

At its closest point, it passed between the wing-tip and the fuselage, above the right wing of the plane, the report stated.

The UK Airprox Board concluded that ‘a definite risk of collision had existed’.

“The drone was being flown in the vicinity of an airfield approach path such that it was endangering other aircraft at that location and altitude,” the report found.