The UK Airprox Board investigated a drone near-miss reported by Embraer ERJ-190 near London-City Airport on 23 September 2015. Separation distance reported as 50 feet.
THE E190 PILOT reports on final approach to London/City RW27 when the First Officer (PF) saw what he identified as a yellow RC helicopter 300m ahead. He called it to the Captain’s attention; both pilots simultaneously assessed that the object would not collide with them so the aircraft was allowed to continue its glidepath descent on autopilot. The pilot stated that it appeared that the drone was in level flight and that it was fortuitous their descending flight path took them clear. He notified the London/City Tower controller by radio and spoke with the police in person after landing.
He assessed the risk of collision as ‘Medium’.
The Board noted that the drone had passed close enough to the E190 for the First Officer to identify it as a ‘yellow helicopter’ and that the drone should not have been operated at the reported altitude in that vicinity. Because it should not have been flown in that airspace, it was agreed that the cause of the Airprox was that the drone had been flown into conflict with the E190. Unfortunately, tracing action on the drone operator was unsuccessful. The Board noted that the drone had reportedly passed close to the E190 (circa 50ft). They also noted that neither pilot had felt it necessary to take avoiding action to prevent an actual collision because their aircraft was already descending just below the drone. The Board agreed that safety margins had been much reduced and that there had been little opportunity for the crew to react; however, the fact that they had been able to make a conscious decision that there was enough separation prompted the Board to classify this as a Category B risk.
Aircraft: Embraer ERJ-190
Aircraft altitude: 2600 ft
Separation: 50 feet
Please note that separation distances are solely based on pilot’s judgements and not necessarily accurate since horizontal and vertical separation distances can be hard to judge.