The latest Airprox report includes what is understood to be the closest-ever drone sighting in the UK. The report was made by the pilot of a NetJets Bombardier that was traveling from Nice, France, to London Luton Airport on August 26, 2019.

The pilot reported seeing the drone 14 miles west of the airport, at an elevation of 4,000 feet, while the jet was traveling 200 mph. Allegedly, the 14-seat, £46 million private jet passed the drone within a mere 10 feet.

Closest-ever drone sighting recorded by NetJets pilot in the UK

As frequent readers of DroneDJ will know, there have been many drone sightings over the past few years, but only very few confirmed cases. In many drone airport incidents, the reported unmanned aircraft might have been an illusion, bird, balloon, plastic bag, or another unidentified flying object. Not too long ago, DJI even warned that people should not jump to conclusions too quickly and not point to drones as the likely culprit. This case is no different.

The following is reported by Airprox:

Airprox Number: 2019251

Date, Time (UTC): August 26, 2019, 12:07

Aircraft (Operator): GL6000S (Civ Comm)

Object: Unk Obj

Location[1], Description, Altitude: 5149N 00040W, Luton, 4000ft

Airspace (Class): Luton CTA (D)

Pilot/Controller Report, Reported Separation, Reported Risk:

The GL6000S pilot reports he was inbound to Luton when he saw a drone moving west to east at around 4,000 feet on 12nm final RW08. The drone was black and appeared to have some sort of light source at the front. The size was difficult to judge, but best estimate was 50 cm by 50 cm. It was estimated to pass within 10 feet of the aircraft. An inspection after landing did not find any evidence of a strike.

Reported Separation: 0ft V/ 10ft H

Reported Risk of Collision: NR

The Swanwick Controller reports that the GL6000S pilot reported that he had seen a drone at 4,000 feet and almost hit it. He was 12 nm final for RW08 Luton. The following aircraft did not report seeing it.

Comments/Risk Statement: In the Board’s opinion the reported altitude and/or description of the object were such that they were unable to determine the nature of the unknown object.

Applicable Contributory Factors: 5

Risk: 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.

ICAO Risk: A

As you can read in the report, the Airprox board concluded that “they were unable to determine the nature of the unknown object,” but still classified it as an ICAO Risk level A, which is the highest risk category.

Sensational headlines in the British newspapers

The headlines in the British newspapers are quite sensational. For instance, the Sun reports that:

A PRIVATE jet used by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was just 10 ft from a mid-air smash with an illegal drone over Britain.

And the Mirror says:

Drone comes within 10 ft of crashing into luxury celebrity jet near UK airport. An illegally flown drone came perilously close to hitting the Bombardier Global 6000, which is regularly used by celebrities, as it approached London Luton airport.

The Sun continues to say the following to further increase the fear around drones:

A flying expert said if the device had shattered the cockpit windscreen it could have killed the crew.

Former BA pilot Terry Tozer said: ‘The damage could have been really serious. If a drone hit the ­windshield it could kill or incapacitate at least one of the flight crew.

‘It could also be ingested into an engine with a similar outcome to a bird strike. These types of incidents are going to be an increasing problem. It’s a real concern for pilots.

‘Stricter regulations have been brought in but you will always get people who don’t care about the rules.

‘It’s very difficult to know how we are going to control drones.’

In the Mirror, Flightglobal online magazine consulting editor David ­Learmount goes even further by saying the following:

I don’t think anyone would fly a drone intending to murder 200 passengers. But pilots have been targeted with laser pens, so clearly some people think ­mischievousness does no harm. There will be far more drones around in the future, so we do have to get a handle on the problem.

Putting fearmongering aside for a second, this report is purely based on one pilot’s observation, and there has been no proof of an actual unmanned aircraft or a confirmation by other crew members or airplanes in the vicinity. The local Bedfordshire Police was contacted as well, but no drone pilot has been traced.

What do you think about reports such as this one where the media claims the “closest ever drone sighting”? Let us know in the comments below.

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