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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  • My mistake, it seemed directed at Patrick. And yes I think the person flying near JFK is an idiot.  However I see no problem, legally or otherwise, with flying above 400 feet.  Now within the vicinity of an airport is a different story.  Try completing an IMAC routine with a 40% under 400'.  I dont think people realize how low 400' is and how often they fly higher than that.  If we are eventually limited to 400' no matter the location it would basically kill the hobby, or people will just have to ignore it.

  • Charles, where did  I say that Patrick said that was a good idea? I'm referring to the person, if that is the case, who was flying on JFK approach who couldn't figure that out. Also, sorry if I didn't make this clear but I'm not saying Patrick is an idiot, I'm just pissed off, like you should be, at the guys who think it's ok to fly in an irresponsible manner because some lawyer is telling them it is not illegal. So, in Patrick's words, "Go ahead and have fun"... (flying above 400'). This is a direct threat to our right to legally fly FPV as it just adds fuel to the legal argument against remotely piloted aircraft.

  • R_Lefebvre -- my vote is 'before'.

    That's what really bothers me.  I, we, anybody, could make an honest attempt to do things properly, and I just know, that many people in positions of authority are the ones who won't be taking things seriously.

    Then if something happens, you know they'll circle the wagons, and some poor schmo's head is going to be on a spike outiside FAA headquarters.  Put there as an example.

    I mean, if anything *is* clear about this debate, it's that there is NOT a clear, effective, enforceable regulation for us.  Nobody knows what's going on.  It's all subject to interpretation. Nobody really knows what the rules are.

    The AMA rides in on their high horse, comes out with "rules", and then doesn't even make those rules actually match the FAA advisory?

    Somebody could be operating within the AMA's safety code, and might not be breaking an actual law...  and still could be hung out to dry simply due to the fact that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Hammered by this vague "reckless endangerment" clause simply because of some astronomical odds that their model aircraft got in the way of a low flying aircraft.

    I'm not even talking about this incident near JFK, which probably was kinda stupid.  I'm talking about some guy flying at their club field, or some other reasonable location, and just pure dumb luck there's an accident.  Since the law does not clearly indicate that what they were doing is "OK", they could therefore be hit with this "reckless" charge quite easily.

    It just stinks, all of it.

  • Elvis- When did he ever say flying 1500 agl on the approach end of a runway was a good idea?  We are simply talking about the legal side of operating model aircraft in the NAS. I seriously doubt you read through all the pages of comments.  There is no need to get hostile.  You talk about common sense, how you display some common courtesy. 

  • @ patrick

                    Comment by Elvis 1 second ago           Delete Comment

    Do you ever wonder why people dislike lawyers? Just because it is not CURRENTLY illegal doesn't mean it's right. Do you live your life based off what "Big brother" tells you is right or wrong or do you just figure it out based off how your parents (hopefully) raised you? If it weren't illegal to murder someone, would you go on a killing spree just because "big brother" hadn't passed a law against it yet? There is a thing called common sense, that many people are lacking unfortunately, that should tell you that flying 1500 feet AGL on an major airport approach is wrong - even if the law hasn't told you that yet. If you can't figure that out because a law hasn't been passed (YET) then you are a (fill in the blank).

  • Jonathan- You do not need clearance to fly VFR in Class E.  There are tons of flights everyday that travel through Class G and E and never talk to ATC or file a flight plan.  

    Also I don't think Patrick is necessarily saying lets go out and push the limits of the law with our RC planes but more of whether there is any laws preventing you from doing so.  Like what was brought up earlier a lot of us have tons to lose by doing so, pilot license, security clearances, etc.  But it does bring up an interesting conversation about where things stand legally. 

  • @ Jonathan - You know, I'm really done caring what you think about what I've said. You're obviously one of those people who just because you've got a pilots license think you know absolutely everything about aviation law. You've also completely drunk the FAA's cool aid and are convinced they are omnipotent and don't have to actually follow the law themselves, but can just make up rules on the spot and punish whoever they want with no legal basis. Fine. If that's how you want to think be my guest.

  • Brent,

    I wouldn't say it's all over. Really no matter what the FAA says or what regulations it creates in the future, actually enforcing them against the modeling public at large will be more or less impossible. Every once in a while there may be a major incident like this (or worse, an actual collision), and then the FAA, FBI, DHS, etc. will move heaven and earth to come down hard on the poor schmuck and make an example of him. But the average FPVer or RC hobbyist will in practice not have to worry much about the FAA. In the future, it will almost certainly be illegal to fly BVLOS FPV, but pretty much every FPVer in America will continue to do it just as they do now. And no matter what the law on the books is, the fact is the FAA won't care. They have better things to do than hunt down FPVers flying from random parks and socking them with huge fines. The only time they will actually go after someone is if there's a major incident like this New York thing, or (much more likely in my experience) when somebody with a grudge against a particular person rats them out to the FAA in revenge for some perceived slight. That's what happened to me after I wrote my petition to the AMA last summer. And remember, the only evidence they'll ever have on you is what you yourself post online. As long as you don't post YouTube videos that make it obvious you're breaking the rules, you should be fine.

  • @Charles: No prob, you're right on all those points.

    • Class E does permit VFR where ATC clears it.
    • A flight plan is only absolutely required under some circumstances, but there is such a thing as a VFR flight plan and pilots are strongly encouraged to file one, if only to help find any wreckage faster.
    • I probably said flight plan when I meant clearance.

    I stand by my opinion that Patrick is giving out bad advice. You should have spoken up faster so I didn't have to.

  • R_Lefebvre -- my vote is 'before'.

    And, really, the arguing of technicalities is all besides the point. Far more important to the future of this hobby is this: there is no entity of any consequence that has a vested interest in its survival in what will surely be a coming future of regulatory constraints. Not the majors (Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc.), not the politicians, not the public; if anything, all of these groups would be at best indifferent. In the real world, this is all that matters-- especially when you're up against a federal regulatory agency with a blank check to do whatever they want in the public airspace.

    There is an oft-heard cry from hobbyists who feel that the AMA is their only consolidated power bloc. But the AMA's actions of the last few years (basically running in the other direction and attempting to protect the old-line model aircraft community) should give you a clue as to how much leverage they believe they have.

    We can cite isolated bits and pieces of the law all we want... but we're one serious incident of perceived public endangerment away from it all being over.

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