A Drone? A Really Big Bird? A UFO? What Did Alitalia Pilot See Near JFK?

FAA Looking Into Pilot's Claim Of Seeing Unmanned Or Remote-Piloted Aircraft

LINK: News Story

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A mystery in the sky over New York City on Monday got one commercial airline pilot’s attention.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a report from the pilot, who claims he saw an unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft while on his final approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The pilot, who was at the controls of Alitalia Flight AZA 60, spotted what may have been a drone about four to five miles southeast of the airport at an altitude of 1,500 feet while on final approach to Runway 31 Right at about 1:15 p.m.

The Alitalia flight landed safely minutes later.

Please stay with CBSNewYork.com for more on this developing story

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  • If it's flying, it's an aircraft.  The definition you are quoting is from 14 CFR 1.1 - General Definitions - but there is no mention of passengers. An FAA Memorandum dated 9/16/2005 (AFS-400 UAS Policy 05-01) titled "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations in the U. S. National Airspace - Interim Operational Approval Guidance" defines Unmanned Aircraft as "A device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air that has no onboard pilot.  This includes all classes of airplanes, helicopters, airships and translational lift aircraft that have no onboard pilot".

    The FAA is responsible for safety. Period. Noncommercial flight in any craft, Cessna, balloon, drone or Lear-jet - is generally less regulated than commercial flight because the participants are usually all familiar with the operator and the operator's abilities. Commercial use, however, requires a higher level of scrutiny precisely because the user, the customers, are usually general public people with no aviation knowledge. They rely on the FAA to assure their safety. This is accomplished with pilot licensing and aircraft certification. Domestic drones, as we know them, were extremely rare before this decade, so as usual, the technology has gotten way ahead of the regulations. Because there are no regulations for pilots' licensing and drone certification, the FAA cannot do their job - their only job - of aviation safety.

    You may ask, why is my flight over my house, taking photos legal, but if I yaw to the house next door and take photos for the Realtor any different?

    If the FAA gave a green light for that type of flight, there will be thousands of entrepreneurs with more money than brain who have absolutely no knowledge of aviation law, no experience flying a drone, and only see a business opportunity. Someone on the ground will be hurt, and the FAA will be called on the carpet for not ensuring the safety of flight.  And oppressive regulations would follow.

    Rumor has it that the FAA will be releasing an update of UAS Policy later this year which would (crossed fingers) authorize unlicensed commercial use of light UAV's.  I am hearing that it would be a two-person crew, line-of-sight only, not over crowds or near an airport.

    Meanwhile, hobby flight under AC91-57 will largely go unaffected.

  • Excellent point. I hadn't thought about that particular angle.

  • @ Phillip and Patrick

    I come back here and re-read this thread now and then. This time when I read the definition of an aircraft, it occurred to me that we may not being reading this correctly at all. 

    1) FAA defines an aircraft as: "A device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air" (that's a very broad definition!)

    Let me focus on "Used for flight in the air".

    My Quad's are not "Used for flight". They are used for amusement, or photography. I believe this wording implies directly "Transporting Humans through the air". Period. Why does it not say "An aircraft is a device that flies through the air"? Because the FAA mandate was to create a safe transportation industry, through regulation. So without humans on board, where are they? It's not even an aircraft since it can't be "used for flight". 

  • ahh my mistake i read 17000 ft lol that is why i thought that i was impossible for a quad to get that high 

    yeah 0.3 miles is nothing, but either way, i dont see why model flyers should have less rites than tourists to flying lol

  • the altitude they claim would be 3 and a bit miles directly up

    You are off by an entire order of magnitude.  The altitude they claim is close to 0.3 miles, not 3+.  At 3+ miles up, it would be an entirely different discussion.

  • Spektrum and futaba are ranged at around 2 miles, the altitude they claim would be 3 and a bit miles directly up.

    Not to mention with a quad , in other threads poeple say the most they have ever seen people fly for is around 25-30 mins without fpv gear as well, there is just so little change a quadcopter could have done this and made a safe return

  • Moderator
    Thanks for the comments DaveC. Rc Planes and UAV's are my passion. I want all my activities to be verifiable , I keep a log book of all flights with the logs. Eventually this will be a full time business.
    If we want to be taken seriously we have to be seen to be proffessional
  • It ain't the only air port with UFO's  http://ufos.about.com/lr/o_hare_ufo_sighting/29050/1/

  • For what it's worth, I've personally operated a 500-class helicopter up to 1500 ft AGL in restricted airspace (We had clearance to 18,000, so I figured I'd do at least one flight up). Normally that heli could fly for about 20 minutes on a charge, and based on the battery remaining when it landed I could have easily taken it higher. Quads are less efficient than traditional helis, but I can easily believe that a quad could climb to 1,750 ft AGL.

  • On another note, unless the guy was using UHF transmission on the TX and possibly on the video system there is no way the thing could fly so far and if it was a quad copter then there is no chance at all!

    Nonsense.  You don't need video or an RC link at all to fly to that altitude (and note that at 3, or even 5 miles from the airport, the quad is still over or very near land).  Both are well within radio range using commonly available gear on a variety of frequencies anyhow.

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