Drone sighting near JFK airport sparks FBI, FAA investigation

Posted Mar 5, 2013 by JohnThomas Didymus
The FBI and the FAA say they are investigating a report from the pilot of an Alitalia passenger jet that he saw an unmanned aircraft near JFK airport over Brooklyn. The pilot said he spotted the drone within 200 feet of his passenger airplane.
United States Predator Drone
United States Predator Drone
LA Times reports that FAA confirmed the investigation Tuesday in a release that reads:
"The FAA is investigating a report from the pilot of an international airline that he saw a small, unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft while on final approach to Runway 31 Right at John F. Kennedy International Airport at about 2 p.m. The pilot did not take evasive action. The flight landed safely."
According to The Huffington Post, the Alitalia pilot said he saw the drone as he approached the runway at about 1:15 p.m. He said the drone was 4 to 5 miles southeast of the airport at an altitude of about 1,500 ft.
CNN reports that FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the pilot's report suggests the aircraft was "somewhere over Brooklyn." FBI officials said the pilot described the drone as black, about three feet wide with four propellers.
Special Agent in Charge Giacalone, said: "The FBI is asking anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact us. Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew."
A website that posts aircraft communications,, recorded the Alitalia pilot's radio calls. The pilot can be heard saying: "We saw a drone, a drone aircraft."
According to NBC New York, passengers at Kennedy Airport were surprised to learn that a drone was spotted flying so close to an area near one of the world's busiest airports. A passenger Manuel Infante, said: "It makes me very nervous. Very nervous. A lot of cause for concern."
Officials have not said whether they think what the pilot saw really was a drone
But Dan Rose, an aviation expert, said: "Even the smallest drone is a substantial weight, and it could easily do damage like ripping off a part of a wing or impacting a cockpit..."
The CNN comments:
"... drones, and other remote-controlled planes could pose a risk to larger passenger aircraft if they collided or were sucked into an engine... For recreational hobbyists, flying remote-controlled planes is only allowed by the FAA up to 400 feet in the air, and within sight of the operator. If they are going to fly within three miles of an airport, they have to let air traffic controllers know.
"Flying unmanned aerial vehicles is illegal for most business purposes; however, governments and public entities such as police departments can apply for permission to operate them."
The Huffington Post reports that an FBI press release about the incident, said:
"FBI seeks public assistance in identifying, locating unmanned aircraft and operator" On Monday, March, 4, 2013, at approximately 1:15 p.m., the pilot of Alitalia Flight #608 spotted a small unmanned aircraft while on approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport. The Alitalia flight was roughly three miles from runway 31R when the incident occurred at an altitude of approximately 1,750 feet. The unmanned aircraft came within two hundred feet of the Alitalia plane. The FBI is investigating the incident, looking to identify and locate the aircraft and its operator. The unnamed aircraft was described as black in color and no more than three feet wide with four propellers. “The FBI is asking anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact us,” said Special Agent in Charge John Giacalone. “Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew.” Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 212-384-1000. Tipsters may remain anonymous.