Heathrow runway closed after drone flew within 3ft of Finnair A320’s engine 

Finnair Airbus A320-200
Bjoern Wylezich / Shutterstock.com

A report by the UK Airprox Board has revealed that an illegal drone came within 3ft of a Finnair Airbus A320’s wing as the plane was a few miles from landing at London-Heathrow Airport (LHR).  

The A320 was flying at 3,000 feet on April 8, 2023, when the pilot spotted what they described as a “round shaped drone with purple/turquoise color”. 

The UK Airprox Board, which works to enhance air safety, noted that the pilots of two previous aircraft that landed at LHR also had visual on a suspected drone. 

Air Traffic Controllers at LHR asked the Finnair pilot of the A320 if they were happy to continue with their descent.  

The pilot signaled they would continue with the landing “since the drone was staying to the right of the centerline”. 

However, following the pilot’s decision to continue the drone flew under the left wing, only a few meters from the engine. 

Air Traffic Control was informed, and the runway was subsequently closed after the aircraft landed. New arrivals were switched to a different runway.  

According to the report the pilot described the drone as coming within three to 10 feet of the engine.  

The UK Airprox Board considered the incident to be “high risk” and in its opinion the “reported altitude and/or description of the object were sufficient to indicate that it could have been a drone”. 

“The Board considered that the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed,” the report said. 

Although not mentioned in the report by the UK Airprox Board, the Mail Online said the aircraft was a Finnair A320 that had left Rome, Italy.  

Finnair confirmed to the Mail that the incident involved a flight being operated by the Finnish airline on behalf of British Airways. 

“Getting accurate estimates of distance is challenging at high speed, so 3 to 10ft is only an estimation of the distance from the drone. Flying drones in areas where it is strictly forbidden shows that some drone enthusiasts have ignored safety regulations,” a spokesperson for the airline said. 

They added: ‘We want to express our concern about this irresponsible activity. These cases endanger air traffic safety and can cause flight operations disruptions. Safety is the cornerstone of aviation, and we also expect a strong safety culture from drone enthusiasts.” 

The report by the UK Airprox Board was published following a meeting on May 24, 2023. 

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