A pilot reported seeing an unmanned aircraft close by while landing his passenger jet on Monday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed an investigation was underway after the sighting
"We saw a drone, a drone aircraft," an Alitalia pilot told airport controllers, according to LiveATC.net, which broadcasts live air traffic control reports from towers and radar facilities around the world.
The FAA said the sighting was made four to five miles west of the airport at an altitude of about 1,500 feet.
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"The pilot saw a small, unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft while on final approach to Runway 31 Right," FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said in a statement to CNN
Considering the location of the sighting, the drone was likely over Brooklyn as the commercial flight was making its descent.
The pilot said that at one point the drone was 200 feet from the plane, but it did not interfere with the plane's landing.
Air traffic controllers at JFK put out warnings to other pilots. Two pilots who were approaching the runway said they did not see the drone.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has at least 10 unarmed Predator-like drones in service around the country and they are frequently borrowed by other government agencies for various missions. They are equipped with a collection of cameras allowing on-ground controllers to see in any light condition from an altitude of up to five miles.
The use of flying unmanned aerial vehicles is illegal for most business purposes, CNN reported, though the FAA permits hobbyists to fly drones up to 400 feet in the air. The FAA requires that if an unmanned vehicle comes within three miles of an airport, the flyer must inform air traffic controllers.
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Drones pose an obvious threat to commercial airplanes if employed by terrorists, but they are also a risk when hobbyists fly them. Passenger flights, which could collide with a drone or suck one into an engine, are in real danger.
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