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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – There were some anxious moments for pilots of a passenger jet landing at Dallas Love Field Tuesday night.
Virgin Air Flight 769 was on approach to Love Field when a drone flew past it. According to the FAA, it was the red and green lights on a quadcopter that got the pilots’ attention.
“Could be dangerous. I mean, you see them all the time now,” said Love Field passenger Jeff White of Pottsboro. He echoed what a lot of people told us at Love today. That drones have no business mixing it up with aircraft. “What if it sucks into the engine, brings it down?” he asked. “We fly a lot, we fly all over the country and they need to regulate it.”
Sucked into an engine? A notion not-at-all far-fetched, according to former commercial pilot Denny Kelly, “Yes, it could very easily cause an engine to malfunction and have to be shut down. Very easily.”
According to the FAA, Virgin Flight 769 was just over the Crescent Hotel, when the drone popped-up underneath, then over, the fast moving passenger jet.
Small quad-copters and other drones can be purchased for as little as $40 online and are flown seemingly everywhere. But airspace between downtown Dallas and Love is federally controlled from the ground to 11,000 feet. The jet was much lower approaching Runway 31-right, according to control tower audio of the event. “The (Virgin) Airbus was about a mile-and-a-half final off 31-Right and he reported passing over the top of it and it was around 12 to 1300 feet.”
Aviation expert Kelly believes few drone operators know aviation rules; fewer still follow them, he says. “People ignore the rules and do what they want to do; I’m not talking everybody but maybe that 5-percent and that’s the ones you have to worry about.”
CBS 11 News tried to contact local drone hobby groups but had no luck.
Kelly adds that while a commercial jet might withstand a bird strike – and therefore a small drone hit on its windshield – smaller private planes aren’t that tough. “With light airplanes windshields aren’t nearly as substantial. So if you get a student pilot driving along making a landing in a light airplane and one of these drones hits it in the windshield it could very easily bring the airplane down. Very easily.”
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