Near tragedy as drone collides with passenger jet in Quebec City
A drone collided with a passenger jet, in what could’ve been an air transport disaster on Thursday. The Skyjet plane was approaching the Jean-Lesage airport when it got struck by the drone.
The minister of transport, Marc Garneau, said that the incident is one that was easily avoidable, and requested that all drone operators in the country adhere strictly to air safety regulations.
Speaking in a statement, Garneau said the incident which occurred in Quebec City was the first of its kind— as a drone has never struck a commercial plane in Canada.
“I am extremely relieved that the aircraft only sustained minor damage and was able to land safely,” he said.
Furthermore, a spokesman at the Jean Lesage airport said that the aircraft was touching down from Rouyn-Noranda with a total of eight passengers and crew members onboard, when the incident occurred about three kilometres from the airport.
The director of communications and public relations at the Jean-Lessage airport, Mathieu Claise remarked that he couldn’t comment on the extent of damage the aircraft sustained and the condition of the passengers onboard, but was giving the assurance that the plane landed safely.
While accidents like these are incredibly rare, Greg McConnell who is the national chairperson of the Canadian Federal Pilots’ Association said that the incident was bound to occur sooner than later.Speaking via a phone interview, he said, "There are a lot of drones flying, and there are a lot of people flying drones thinking they’re toys."
“If bird’s striking a plane’s engine can cause an emergency landing , or worse, a major air transport disaster, then drones can do exactly same.”
Garneau issued an interim order in June to regulate drone activities—specifying a number of things including maximum heights in which they can fly, while also prohibiting their operation in specific airspaces.The rule states that it is illegal to fly a recreational drone within 5.5 kilometres from an airport, and 1.5 kilometres from a heliport without a documented licence granting permission.
Defaulters could face charges that could result in prison sentences, and fines in the region of about $25,000.
The newly setup regulations were commended by McConnell, though he remarked that he was quite puzzled about the sluggish approach from the federal government to regulate drone activities.“These things have been around since the 1990s," he said. "Let’s get a move on."
Garneau said that the department are taking drastic actions—following the unfortunate incident, and would enter into a partnership with airport officials, Quebec Citypolice, NAV CANADA, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
“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.”
There have been a total of 1,596 incidents involving drones that has been received by the transport ministry so far in 2017. 131 of them have been marked as “safety threatening”.