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Airliner Reports Near Miss With A Drone (Or An RC?)

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A regional airliner on approach to Tallahassee, Fla., in March nearly collided with a drone, an FAA official said on Thursday. Speaking before a drone conference in San Francisco, Jim Williams, head of the FAA's UAV office, said the near-collision occurred at about 2300 feet near Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida. The flight was operated by USAirways, part of the American Airlines Group, and the pilot was quoted as saying the drone was so close that he thought the airliner hit it, according to The Wall Street Journal. An inspection of the aircraft revealed no damage, nor did Williams offer any information about what kind of UAV was involved or who owned it. Meanwhile, American Airlines is continuing to investigate the incident.

The FAA said USAirways 4650 was en route from Charlotte when it passed the drone, which he described as "a camouflaged F-4 fixed-wing aircraft that was quite small," suggesting that the aircraft could have been an RC aircraft rather than a UAV. The incident follows another one at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York in March 2013, when an Alitalia flight approaching JFK spotted a quadcopter-type UAV at a distance of about 200 feet. The FAA and FBI continue to investigate that incident. Meanwhile, the FAA has been criticized for dragging its feet on regulations that would safely integrate UAVs into the national airspace system. The topic is expected to be discussed at the AUVSI exposition in Orlando next week.

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