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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  • Patrick: I agree with your understanding of the "circular" nuance, and have read all the FAA docs myself. In fact, it's rather amusing just how low-fi this governing 'circular' is -- basically a memo dashed off by an FAA functionary as a friendly reminder to RC hobbyists that's grown into this vast governing umbrella. I agree that its legal force is questionable in the strictest sense.

    That said, while not explicitly illegal -- would you care to test in court a 1400' flight near an airport? I've a pretty good guess as to what would come of that.

    Let's be real guys: this is exactly how this hobby dies. Exactly. The public has absolutely no interest in people flying 1400' to take FPV to post on YouTube to guffaws and adulation--especially when it's passenger airliners and it (even if hypothetically) endangers the lives of people like them. This is the type of event that engages the average person in a very seriously antagonistic way. And do keep in mind -- more people heard about this today than have ever heard of the positive uses of 'drones' or the good behavior of the vast majority of the amateur hobbyist community. Second only to a terrorist attack using amateur 'drones', I can think of nothing else more negative for this community.

    Make no mistake: today was a watershed moment in this tug-of-war and it WILL provoke a government response. Newspaper columns will be written, activists will be adding this to their fusillade of anti-drone rhetoric, etc. The proliferation and low barrier to entry of cheap autopilot multirotors has IMO sealed our fate for some very draconian restrictions. I am saddened by this--but I am equally saddened by the lack of personal responsibility of the individuals involved (and people like them).

    --Trappy, I hope you're listening.

  • That could very well be the case. Do you happen to know where in the FARs or federal law it states that all uses of aircraft that are not specifically authorized by the FAA are prohibited? Because the default with law in general is that what is not specifically prohibited is allowed, not vice versa. I have yet to see anyone actually cite such a provision though.

  • "I haven't yet done enough research to determine if the FAA's position that any aircraft operation that is not specifically authorized is prohibited, though I know laws usually work the opposite way."

    Patrick- I think you should look into this because this is exactly the case. In regards to commercial activity, if you don't have a COA, you simply are not legal.I am currently listed on a COA to fly a UAV in a very defined airspace and there are a lot of hoops stated in the verbage of the COA which the authorized flyer must adhere to including being an FAA licensed pilot and I must file a proper flight plan with the FAA before every flight.

  • @Jonathan - I know perfectly well Parker is mostly under Centennial's Class D airspace. But despite what a lot of ignorant full scale pilots think who just assume the same restrictions that apply to them apply to everyone, the FAA has never made any kind of airspace class restrictions applicable to model aircraft. In fact, it might interest you to know that there is a chartered AMA field at Cherry Creek State Park, also smack dab in the middle of Centennial's airspace and nearly direct in-line with another runway. They also are careful to only fly below 400 feet, and if it works for them it can work for me. The fact is, model aircraft fly in restricted airspace all the time without doing anything wrong, because airspace restrictions simply do not apply to model aircraft, unless they expressly say so like in the exclusion zone around Washington DC. For all you think you know about airspace, you might want to learn the actual law behind it before spouting off about it.

  • R_Lefebvre:

    That dotted blue line is Class D airspace, from the surface to 6000 feet MSL. There's an exception for "CZ" below 2000 feet, but I don't know what that abbreviation stands for.  I would definitely start by calling that number.

  • @R_Lefebvre

    I think the lines you refer to mark Class C and Class E airspace?  Class C means that a transponder is required for any plane to enter the airspace. Class E starts higher I believe.


  • AC 91-57 is a guideline, this is true. However, AC 43-13 is ALSO a "guideline"...one that aviation mechanics are required to follow in order to obtain their certificates as aviation mechanics. The FAA can, and does, fine persons who operate outside of those "guidelines". Further, I can foresee some hotshot attorney grabbing the text of AC 91-57 and shoving it under the nose of a judge, and through the mechanism of case law turning those "guidelines" into something a great deal more stringent.

    In short, it looks like one hotshot FPVer just set a lit match to a fuse that leads to a half-ton powder keg, and it's set to blow the entire RC flying hobby out of American skies.

  • Jonathan, what can you tell me about this airport?


    I notice a giant ring around it, extending to my town, and in fact, our club field is within the field.

    Is this the right number to call?

    DND WComd CFB Trenton Attn: W Ops O 613-965-3316

  • Nobody's going to care whether your flying is legal or not when your quad crashes through the cockpit of a 747. It's legal to drive your car, too, but if you drive with your eyes closed and run over a child, you're rightfully going to prison.

    Regarding Patrick's uninformed opinions about the airspace over his head: Parker, Colorado is mostly within the Class D restricted airspace around Centennial airport, which extends from the surface to 8000 feet where the Class B restricted airspace of Denver International airport starts. (Even when not near Centennial, 8000 feet is only about 1200 feet AGL there. That's only one mistake away.)

    The legal consequences of violating protected airspace in the US are mostly huge fines and revocation of your pilot's license. You might say "I don't need a pilot's license" but as soon as somebody's mistake has real consequences the powers that be will make sure that you need one, whether you're flying manned or unmanned, hobby or commercial. There are already a bunch of laws on the federal and state books for the relatively esoteric hobby of model rocketry; that there are no laws specifically for R/C is mostly just an historical oversight that could be fixed in a week with no input from you.

    VFR charts are available for free, and you can learn how to read them from AOPA or the FCC. There's absolutely no excuse for ignorance of the airspace you're flying in.

  • My comment above was in answer to R_Lefebvre's question. Sorry, didn't see the intervening post.

This reply was deleted.