EXCLUSIVE RAF Chinook helicopter passenger saw ‘flash of red’ as aircraft narrowly missed smashing into illegally flown drone by just 42ft as it flew over London
- An RAF Chinook helicopter almost collided with a drone over central London
- The twin rotor aircraft was flying at 1,100ft when a passenger spotted the drone
An RAF Chinook helicopter missed an illegally flown drone by just 42 ft as it was flying over central London, a report has revealed.
The twin rotor helicopter was flying at height of just 1,100ft when a passenger, described as an ‘experienced aviator’, spotted the device.
The drone was reported to be 30ft below and 30ft to the left of the helicopter as it flew along a designated flightpath following the River Thames at Rotherhithe, south east London.
A report by UK Airprox Board which assesses near misses rated it as a most serious Category A incident where there was a serious risk of collision.
The close call at 5pm on May 3 this year happened as the Chinook pilot was returning to base.
An RAF Chinook narrowly missed an illegally flown drone while flying over central London (File photo: An RAF Chinook helicopter)
The report said: ‘The passenger was at the rear of the cabin, owing to poor into-sun visibility and haze from the cockpit.
‘The passenger reported that a quadcopter of 50cm-1m size passed 30ft below and 30ft to the left of the aircraft. They reported seeing a flash of red colouring.
‘It was not clear whether the drone was stationary or moving. No other member of the operating crew saw the UAS (unmanned aircraft system).’
The passenger revealed the drone sighting during a ‘debrief’ session after the Chinook had landed.
The report went on to say that air traffic controllers had not given any indication of drones being authorised for use in the area.
The report did not reveal the speed of the Chinook at the time of the incident, but the distinctive helicopters used for transporting soldiers and military hardware have a top speed of 200mph.
The drone operator is believed to have been flying at an illegal height as drones are normally restricted to a maximum altitude of 400ft in the UK.
It is believed that they were never traced, but if caught they could have been charged with endangering an aircraft which carries a maximum jail sentence of five years.
A passenger in the RAF helicopter spotted the drone just feet away (File photo: An RAF Chinook Helicopter lands at London’s Royal Victoria Dock)
The UKAB report stated that the pilot had rated the risk of collision as being ‘high’.
It added: ‘In the Board’s opinion the description of the object was sufficient to indicate that it could have been a drone.
‘The Board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed.’
The incident follows a series of other reported near misses between drones and passenger aircraft in skies above the UK.
Most cases are thought to involve rogue operators flying their devices to illegal heights after by-passing maximum altitude software to try and get dramatic videos of aircraft flying by.
Pilots have repeatedly warned of the danger of drones smashing cockpit windows or damaging jet engines, especially during critical times before landing or just after take off.
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