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Drone comes 16 feet from crashing into passenger plane in New Zealand

A commercial drone flies over grass. (Free Use)
March 27, 2018

An aircraft that was attempting to land at Auckland Airport, in New Zealand, from Tokyo had an encounter with a drone on Tuesday.

A drone came within meters of the flight, jeopardizing the crew and its 278 passengers, Air New Zealand said.

The pilots of the Boeing 777-200, Flight NZ92 said the drone was about 16 feet away and at a crucial point of landing, making it impossible to take direct action, Air New Zealand said.

The drone passed so close that the crew worried it had been sucked into an engine, the airline said.

Inspection reports confirm that wasn’t the case.

Air New Zealand is now calling for jail time for drone operators who act recklessly, following Sunday’s close call.

“It’s clear the time has now come for tougher deterrents for reckless drone use around airports to safeguard travelers,” David Morgan, the airline’s chief operations and integrity standards officer, said in a statement.

Morgan asked for stiffer and more consistent penalties and more effective education regarding drones.

On March 6, an Air New Zealand pilot said a drone was within controlled airspace at Auckland Airport and held up all flights for 30 minutes, according to the airline.

Current laws in New Zealand state that drone operators who violate aviation rules can face fines up to 5,000 New Zealand dollars, or $3,600 U.S.

New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority stands behind the airline as it calls for new regulations and improved education.

“There is no excuse for anyone flying a drone near an airport without authorization or in the flight path of aircraft. Such action is highly irresponsible and is the height of stupidity,” Graeme Harris, the director of civil aviation, said in a statement.