Aviation News

March 5, 2013

Pilots Report Drone Interfering with Flights on Approach to JFK Airport

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By: Jason Rabinowitz
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This map shows the runway 31R approach to JFK with the vicinity of the drone sighting.
This map shows the runway 31R approach to JFK with the vicinity of the drone sighting.
On Monday, Alitalia 608, A Boeing 777-200, reported seeing a drone or unmanned aircraft while on approach to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport’s runway 31R. The incident occurred at approximately 1:15pm, and was first reported by NYCAviation.com on Twitter.

In audio recorded by LiveATC.net and obtained by NYCAviation, the pilot of Alitalia 608 can be heard telling the JFK tower “we saw a drone, a drone aircraft…about 1,500.” Following aircraft were warned by the JFK tower controller, with one additional aircraft reporting it to a ground controller shortly thereafter.

In the time since the incident, the FAA and FBI have opened investigations into finding the drone, of which random reports have been received since Saturday. In a statement released Tuesday by the FBI, the Alitalia 777 reportedly came within 200 feet of the drone. The FBI reports that the drone was black in color, no more than three feet wide, and with four propellers.

This description closely resembles commercially available radio controlled quad-copters, such as the Parrott AR.Drone. The FBI says Alitalia 608 was roughly three miles from runway 31R when the incident occurred, putting it somewhere over the Five Towns area of Long Island, a dense suburban area. The Woodmere Club, a country club with golf course, is directly under the flight path at three miles out. Nobody was available at the club for comment.

Anyone with information is being asked to call the FBI at 212-384-1000.

This story will be updated as any new information comes our way.

The Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 closely resembles what the Alitalia pilot reported seeing.

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