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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  • The last place I would ever fly a drone,would be a commercial airport,let alone a private one.All I can say,anybody who loves this hobby,business etc.had better devote  some of his time,website to educating other's.Federal regulators and a few paranoid people can cause big problems for the rest of us.Don't be flying around other peoples homes,places of business, military bases,airports, etc.Go to a safe setting,away from other people and have fun,it only takes a few jokers,to ruin it for the rest of us.

  • Moderator

    How would that apply to commercial use?

  • I found a good summary of the legal status of model aircraft from a 2005 report by the MIT International Center for Air Transportation, entitled SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS FOR OPERATION OF UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES IN THE NATIONAL AIRSPACE SYSTEM:

    "There is uncertainty regarding the classification of UAVs as aircraft. Federal law
    defines an aircraft as “any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate, or fly in,
    the air.” Broad interpretation of the definition would include UAVs, but could also
    include paper airplanes. Further understanding can be gained by looking at previous
    FAA rulemaking. When crafting ultralight regulations, the FAA refersto ultralights as
    vehicles, not aircraft. In the original preamble of ultralight regulations, ultralights were
    differentiated from other aircraftfor purposes of airworthiness and registration. The
    current language in regulations has been modified, but the distinction between ultralight
    vehiclesand other aircraftremains. Part 91, the general operating and flightrules do not
    apply to ultralight aircraft, which are governedby specific flight rules in Part 103 of the
    Federal Aviation Regulations. Model aircraft, on the other hand, are specifically referred
    to as aircraft in the advisory circularproviding guidelines for their operation.
    Nonetheless, model aircraft are not specifically mentioned in regulation, therefore they
    have not formally been defined as aircraft."

    Since model aircraft have never been formally defined as an aircraft in an actual regulation, the normal rules applicable to manned aircraft simply do not apply. While they are theoretically within the definition of aircraft, the FAA has never issued any kind of policy stating that model aircraft are considered aircraft for purposes of the applicability of Part 91. They may be able to stretch it enough to make the catch-all of "reckless operation of an aircraft" stick, but since they have never formally declared the rest of the rules apply, the assumption has to be they simply don't. They are therefore exempt from all airspace restrictions, etc. until and unless the FAA says otherwise--as it should be noted, they sometimes do with TFRs that expressly apply to model aircraft.

  • Jonathan that is not how it works. Please show us where it says model aircraft are tied into all that.... They are not. Plus IFR required in Class E? Maybe it is time to go back to ground school.
  • The FAA does not require transponders or two way radios on any aircraft, full-scale or otherwise. If you can complete your entire flight within Class G airspace under VFR rules, all you need are a compass, an airspeed indicator, and a clock or watch. The requirements for certain excluded aircraft types are even less strict.

    Where the FAA requires more equipment and procedures is to fly in other classes of airspace. For example, to fly in Class D airspace you need a two-way radio or a phone to monitor other planes and notify airport traffic or ATC of your position. (Thus, the requirement that R/C pilots within X miles of an airport have an arrangement with the airport and notify the tower before taking off.) Flight in Class E airspace must be performed under IFR with a pre-filed flight plan. These rules apply to every kind of craft: airplanes, balloons. rockets, helicopters, drones, etc. If your craft doesn't or can't meet the requirements, it can't fly there, no exceptions.

    If you would really like to be knowledgeable about the regulations, you can train to be a pilot. Even you don't have a medical certificate or don't want to pay for the flights you can do the ground school. That's what I did 20 years ago, and I'm obviously still using what I learned. I highly recommend it.

  • I used to fly that area ALOT in an FSX based flying club. I think it helps to visualize faa airspace in 3d.


    (google earth overlay)


  • Guys- Go Fly - Don't be Stupid - Have Fun

  • Jonathan, is it your contention that every single one of the FARs applies to model aircraft then, including rules for transponders, two way radios, the whole 9 yards? Common man, use some common sense. Yes SOME of the FARs probably do apply to model aircraft, but most of them quite obviously do not. The FAA has never issued any official ruling on which FARs apply and which do not. Unofficially they seem to think that at minimum the see and avoid requirements and the prohibition on reckless operation of an aircraft apply, but they have never issued a formal policy statement about that. And while it is their opinion that you can't adequately fulfill see and avoid while flying beyond line of sight, the rule merely says you have to see and avoid, not how you do it. I believe you could easily prove in court you met the basic see and avoid requirement even if you weren't doing it though an FAA approved means, especially since beyond LOS flight is not expressly prohibited for model aircraft, though it is for other types of UAS. That will probably change in the future though.

    So as for binding regulations, that's about it. You obviously simply don't understand law if your conception of it is that FAA administrators can just make it up on the spot without writing it down and issuing a formal rulemaking. That is simply not how this works, and to continue to assert there are regulations when there plainly aren't is simply showing your ignorance.

  • "Voluntary guidelines" are exactly what both AMA and SUAS have tried to put together. The problem is that first word: voluntary. The evidence, such as it is, points to someone not thinking those guidelines should apply to them. And even AC91-57 calls out the duty of the RC pilot to see and avoid full-scale manned aircraft.

    Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I have to agree with an earlier statement that this could turn into the stake through the heart, not only of the DIYDrones hobby, but RC flying in general.

  • Moderator

    No there is no grey area in Australia, and most of Europe. If you want a sensible way of operating just look to the BMFA http://www.bmfa.org/handbook/HandbookWebVersion2012.pdf and then the CAA rules CAP 722.

    The FAA has held off prosecuting but perhaps the time has come. I'm with Jonathan many RC modellers know the rules only too well. Also at play in our situation is many coders with zero flight knowledge arriving and thinking they can beat the rules of flight physics. 

    Sorry this is a pretty harsh post. I'm not in the USA so what do I care ;-)

    No doubt folks at the FAA are making sure their local offices are very aware of the rules now.

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