Pilot Spots Possible Drone 1,500 Feet Above NYC's JFK Airport... FAA launches investigation

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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Comment by Patrick McKay on March 5, 2013 at 3:49pm

Fair enough. I just happen to be a lawyer and get annoyed when I see people misrepresenting what the law is. My main concern is with what is legal and what's illegal. What's moral and prudent is up to individual FPVers. Personally here again, my main flying field at the park near my house is right in the approach route to a fairly busy general aviation airport about 3 miles away, with planes constantly going over around 800-1000 feet. So when I fly there I adhere rigidly to the 400 foot recommendation and in fact I usually try to stay below 200 feet to be safe. Elsewhere when I'm well away from airports, I have no problem flying up to one or two thousand feet, especially when climbing up to the top of a mountain to proximity fly down the side. But my judgment of what's prudent may not be the same as yours, so in an objective sense, I care primarily about legality and am content to leave specific choices about safe flying to the individual.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 5, 2013 at 4:01pm

Patrick, it's refreshing to hear from an actual lawyer on these matters.

Do you have an opinion on the common statement that "it is illegal to operate a commercial UAV/AP business in the US"?


Moderator
Comment by Nathaniel Caner on March 5, 2013 at 4:13pm

Patrick,

Thanks for clarfying your position for me. Knowing where your coming from makes all the difference to me. Being a lawyer you are familiar with the concept that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking the law correct? That being the case I usually err in taking even reccomendations as Law, especially when they are for the benefit of the greater good. That said I am glad to hear from someone in the know that if I'm not flying at a club field and I'm not it the vicinity of an airport or airport traffic pattern that I'm in the clear with respect to the altitude  'reccomendation'. One must always be mindful of the fact however that we are responsible for our aircraft and with it's interaction with aircraft/people/property intended or unintended. Situational awareness is limited if flying beyond VLOS either with FPV or when in fully autonymous flight beyond VLOS.

 

Regards,

Nathaniel ~KD2DEY

Comment by Patrick McKay on March 5, 2013 at 4:30pm

That is an interesting question we've been debating over at rcgroups at some length. As best I can tell, commercial UAS operations are prohibited by FAA policy, but policy statements do not have the force of law in themselves, but only insofar as they provide official interpretations of regulations, which are the only things that are directly legally binding. So while there is a policy against commercial operation, it is not actually prohibited by any regulation. So it's not authorized, but it's not directly prohibited either. 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. If there is an actual law or regulation saying that it's illegal to fly any kind of aircraft without specific authorization from the FAA, then it would in fact be illegal. But if not, then I rather doubt the FAA's prohibition on commercial UAS operations is actually enforceable. Perhaps that's why they've never gone all the way and done a full enforcement action against a commercial UAS operator. They've sent threatening letters plenty of times, and I even know of one case where they issued a fine against someone but then dropped the matter and didn't take it any further. Perhaps they know secretly that they really don't have any legal grounds to prohibit commercial operations and they just won't admit that pubicly.

Comment by Patrick McKay on March 5, 2013 at 4:39pm

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

Comment by Jonathan Price on March 5, 2013 at 5:52pm

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.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on March 5, 2013 at 6:03pm

Jonathan, what can you tell me about this airport?

http://skyvector.com/airport/CYTR/Trenton-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

Comment by Alan Jump on March 5, 2013 at 6:18pm

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.

Comment by Andreas on March 5, 2013 at 6:24pm

@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.

Comment by Jonathan Price on March 5, 2013 at 6:32pm

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.

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