Report: Virgin Atlantic flight carrying 455 passengers “nearly hit by drone one minute after take-of

The Boeing 747 was flying at 180mph at a height of 400ft when a flight attendant spotted the drone through a cabin window at 1.23pm on March 14th this year, reports The flight was heading for Orlando, Florida. The steward, a former drone operator, estimated that the drone was around 300ft below the aircraft and around 330ft to 500ft away horizontally and could even identify the make of drone.

Investigators from the UK Airprox Board rated the incident as a Category B incident. The drone flying at around 250ft was being flown illegally as it was in a restricted area close to the Gatwick runway. The report said: “In the Board’s opinion the reported altitude and/or description of the object were sufficient to indicate that it could have been a drone. “The Board considered that the crew member’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where safety had been much reduced below the norm to the extent that it had not been assured.”

A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said: “The safety and security of our customers and crew is always our priority. The incident was immediately reported to Air Traffic Control, the CAA, the UK Airprox Board as well as the police in line with our procedures.”

The drone operator has not been traced. The incident happened 15 months after the same airport was closed for 30 hours and 1,000 flights cancelled due to repeated drone sightings. Again the drone operator/s was never found.

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