Pilot reports spotting drone while landing at Calgary airport

An Air Canada flight into Calgary this week experienced a potentially close call with a drone.

Drones can’t be flown within nine kilometres from an airport but on Monday, an Air Canada Jazz pilot reported seeing a drone on their plane’s flight path while coming in for a landing.

“So potentially, it could be very very serious.”

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    “There’s always a possibility that one of these devices can get sucked into an engine (and) that could be catastrophic to the aircraft,” Sgt. Colin Foster with the Calgary Police Service’s collision reconstruction unit said.

    The incident has been turned over to the Transportation Safety Board.

    Calgary police receive one or two drone complaints citywide per month but actually charging someone is rare.

    “One of the difficulties that we have is by the time we get the report, is actually getting an officer to the area to try and spot where the aircraft may be,” Foster said.

    Under the Criminal Code, someone who is charged  with endangering the safety of aircraft could be fined up to $25,000 dollars and could also face possible jail time.

    In January, police did lay charges for flying a drone too close to the airport and that case is still before the courts.

    As drone popularity continues to soar, the public’s knowledge of the rules and regulations is not keeping up.

    “A lot of it is just people being ignorant as to what the rules are.”

    “They aren’t aware of the rules and regulations,” Foster said.

    The number of reported incidents is also on the rise.

    In 2014, Transport Canada investigated 61 cases and last year that spiked to 97.

    “A lot of people just don’t know that these are not toys, that they’re aircraft and we need to address that with the public,” Drone Fair’s Declan Sweeney said.

    The rules and regulations for drone use can be found on the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada’s website.

    On Tuesday, significant rule changes for drones were announced in the United States.

    The Federal Aviation Administration announced it will begin issuing drone pilot’s licences for commercial use in August.

    Operators have to be at least 16 and take a written test. The new rules outline exactly when and where pilots can fly their drones.

    According to Sweeney, talks are in the works to bring in a drone pilot’s licence in Canada sometime in 2017.

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