BBC News is reporting that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has confirmed that another (stupid) amateur drone pilot almost hit an Airbus A320 as it was landing at Heathrow Airport on July 22nd, threatening the lives of nearly 180 people on board.
The CAA gave the incident an A rating, which is described as a "serious risk of collision." The small helicopter-like drone supposedly appeared 700 feet above the tarmac as the plane was touching down. However, investigators were never able to track down the airborne perp.
You'd think that a hulking Airbus passenger plane would simply plow right through a commercial drone no problem. You'd be half right. It would surely destroy anything in its path, but it's what happens to the shrapnel of the collision that's the real threat. We spoke with an aircraft maintenance analyst last year about the potential dangers of a drone/plane collision.
The best case scenario is that if the aircraft comes into contact with a drone at cruising speed and no parts are ingested in to the engine/engines, minor to major damage is done to the fuselage, emergency landing procedures are implemented, and the plane lands safely.
Middle of the road: engine is damaged in-flight, that engine is shut down, and since the 747 has quad redundancy there are still 3 engines with which the aircraft can use to safely land (with potential damage to the airframe).
Worst case—and this would take all the bad juju out there in the universe: Drone ingested into engine. Blades from engine shoot out and destroy other engine on same wing and also cuts through fuel supply lines in the wing as well as hydraulic supply lines. There are procedures to cut fuel supply, but hydraulic power is required to get these valves to shut. Even with a systemic failure like this, the plane could still land safely.
Luckily, passenger plane engines have several redundancies and safety features to make them even drone pilot proof.
Takeoffs and landings are the most vulnerable parts of any flight, relying on everything working together perfectly. Throw a spanner in the works and on some unlucky day, the whole thing could fall apart. Drone dummies, like this person, are the people who have regulators like the FAA in cold sweats and are ultimately hurting all of the sane-minded hobbyists around the world. [BBC News]