On the list of things sure to unnerve a pilot during a fairly important part of a flight—like, say, landing the aircraft—we’re not quite sure where to slot “unmanned consumer drone.” Perhaps somewhere below “laser pointer,” we’d argue, as it’s a device that’s not likely to cause a catastrophic plane crash by itself, but it sure is going to leave the pilots a bit annoyed.
According to a recent report from the Dallas Morning News, some drone owner thought it was an excellent idea to fly a drone within a few hundred feet or so from a descending Southwest airplane’s left wing. Not only did the pilot see the drone on his final approach to Dallas Love Field airport, but an air traffic controller was also able to see the drone from the tower itself.
Though undoubtedly a bit harrowing, the plane in question was able to land safely without incident. More impressively, the pilot didn’t declare any kind of emergency or any of that.
“The tower could see it, and knew [the Dallas Police Department’s] Air One was in the air, so they actually radioed to see if the DPD helicopter could come help look for it. We also dispatched ground units to see if they could catch it or whoever was operating it. They have not been successful,” said Mark Duebner, Dallas’ director of aviation, in an interview with the Dallas Morning News.
According to FAA safety guidelines, drone owners are forbidden from flying their little aircraft within five miles of airports—unless, of course, said drone owner has notified the airport operator and air traffic control operator beforehand.
If you have no idea just where, exactly, the cutoff is in your particular area, you can always check out the global do-not-fly map from drone manufacturer DJI or the U.S.-only map from Mapbox. If you’re lucky, your drone will even have many of these do-not-fly areas preprogrammed, and will actually prevent you from pushing the drone into any locations it should be flying.