LONDON, Investigators said that an object that hit a passenger plane as it approached London was probably not a drone after all.
In fact, it may have been nothing more than a plastic bag.
The pilot of a British Airways flight from Geneva reported that the front of the Airbus A320 had been hit as it made its descent on April 17.
At the time, the plane, which was carrying 132 passengers and five crew, was flying at about 1,700 feet over the area of Richmond Park, in southwest London. It landed safely at Heathrow Airport and was examined by engineers before being cleared to take off on its next flight.
But now Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has closed the case because of a lack of evidence. Investigators searched a “wide area” but did not find anything.
A spokesman said: “We made initial inquiries but there was insufficient information on what object was involved for us to take it further.”
Robert Goodwill, the U.K. government’s transportation minister, said in a statement to the House of Lords: “There was no actual damage to the plane and there is indeed some speculation it may have been even a plastic bag or something.
“The pilot has a lot of other things to concentrate on (when landing) so we’re not quite sure what they saw.”
There have been an increasing number of reports of near-misses involving drones and aircraft in British airspace in the last year. A report released by the U.K. Airprox Board (UKAB) in March found 23 cases in the six months between April and October last year.
The Civil Aviation Authority says that drones should be kept away from planes, airfields and airports, and not flown above 400 feet. Drones fitted with cameras are also banned from flying within 164 feet of people, vehicles or buildings, over concerts, sports events and areas of high population.
British government officials are looking into introducing a drone registration scheme, similar to the one already in place in the United States.
By Martin Smith