TSB investigating collision between drone and passenger plane

Following a mid-air collision between an unmanned aerial vehicle and a passenger plane – the first such incident recorded in Canada – near Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport on Oct. 12, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has launched an investigation.

The aircraft, a Skyjet Beech King Air A100, was arriving at the airport from Rouyn-Noranda, Que. that day while carrying two crew members and six passengers, according to an investigation page on the TSB website. After the plane passed the final approach fix, the crew noticed the drone near the left wing; the drone hit the plane at about 450 metres above the ground, causing scratches, scrapes and some paint transfer.

The crew declared an emergency, but no one was injured and the aircraft landed safely, the TSB noted.

In an Oct. 15 press statement, federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau expressed relief that the collision had resulted in nothing more than minor damage to the plane. He noted that Transport Canada (TC) was monitoring the situation.

“Although the vast majority of drone operators fly responsibly, it was our concern for incidents like this that prompted me to take action and issue interim safety measures restricting where recreational drones could be flown,” said Garneau.

“I would like to remind drone operators that endangering the safety of an aircraft is extremely dangerous and a serious offence. Anyone who violates the [Canadian Aviation Regulations] could be subject to fines of up to $25,000 and/or prison. This applies to drones of any size, used for any purpose.”

TC had received 1,596 reports of drone incidents to date in 2017, 131 of which had been “of aviation safety concern,” Garneau added.

The TSB announced its investigation in a deployment notice on Oct. 17. Leading the probe is Kristina Schoos, who has more than 15 years of experience as a helicopter pilot. “In the course of her career, she has been responsible for flight and ground training and worked as assistant chief pilot,” the TSB stated about Schoos.

International drone manufacturer DJI, whose North American headquarters are in Los Angeles, said in an Oct. 17 statement that it was unaware whether any of its products had been involved in the incident, but that the company was “ready to assist Canadian aviation authorities” if needed.

“DJI drones are programmed by default to fly no higher than 120 metres, and the Quebec City airport is restricted in DJI’s geofencing system,” the statement added.

According to TC’s interim measures, it is illegal to fly any recreational drone less than 5.5 kilometres away from an airport without authorization. Final regulations on recreational drones are still being developed.

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