World's Largest Passenger Plane Has Near-Miss With Drone in Los Angeles

World's Largest Passenger Plane Has Near-Miss With Drone in Los Angeles

Just a few hours ago, Lufthansa 456, an Airbus A380 finishing an 11-hour flight, reported a drone flying just 200 feet above it as it was on approach to Los Angeles International Airport. The near-miss was reported to the LAPD, who immediately began a search.

As drones become more and more ubiquitous, stories of mishaps and misuse are becoming more frequent. In response, the FAA has required mandatory drone registration, while also mandating that drones be kept below 400 feet and more than five miles away from airports. Nonetheless, today, an Airbus 380 flying at 260 m.p.h. reported a drone flying just above it at an altitude of 5,000 feet. Flying about 14 miles east of the airport and on approach, the aircraft was in one of the most crucial stages of flight. The LAPD immediately launched a search for the drone's owner, but was not expectant of a positive result. 

The A380 is the world's largest passenger plane, with a capacity of over 500 passengers in Lufthansa's configuration. While it's an incredibly hardy aircraft, a strike at low altitude over an urban center is nonetheless something to be avoided. As Senator Dianne Feinstein put it: "This is one more incident that could have brought down an airliner, and it's completely unacceptable. A near-miss of 200 feet should serve as a stark reminder of the dangers posed by reckless drone use."

I personally have no patience for such behavior. It's no secret that the airspace above Los Angeles is incredibly busy, and to knowingly fly a drone high into that airspace is to willingly endanger lives. Some of history's most infamous air disasters have been caused by collisions over urban centers (PSA 182, Aeromexico 498). Drones are essentially invisible to radar, and while they are not the size of the planes that brought down the aforementioned flights, they are still sizable enough to be a serious threat to the operation of an aircraft.

[via KABC]

Log in or register to post comments


Drones are a privilege, not a right, and definitely not an extension of anyone's right to photograph. Time for the drone community to get serious about self reporting of these scofflaws. Otherwise, no one should take any talk of drones seriously.

Jayson Carey's picture

The people doing the stupid stuff aren't a member of "the drone community". they are assholes that bought a $1000 toy and decided to ignore everything to have some fun.

Spy Black's picture

How long however before someone maliciously flies one or more drones into engines of planes on final?

Mr Hogwallop's picture

I think that is going to be how "Mission Impossible 6 Attack of the Drones" starts...

Leigh Miller's picture

Yet another idiot...the Government has all day to track Vimeo and Youtube for that kind of nonsense. Boosted boards will be next.

Zach Iddings's picture

Ugh... its people like this.

Anonymous's picture

Playing devil's advocate for a second here, but I highly doubt the pilots saw a drone. My bet would be that they actually saw a large bird or nothing at all. Why? I don't think people realize how difficult it would be to fly a drone up 5,000ft. (Besides the fact you have to spot it while flying 260mph.) Most new drones have limiters of 500m (1,500 ft). Even if you did a manual workaround which enabled flying above the limiter, reaching 5,000ft is no easy task because of battery life. Nearly any drone flying at that height wouldn’t have the battery power to descend without crashing. For example, DJI Phantom 2 has a decent speed of 6ft per second. That would take nearly 14 minutes to descend from 5,000ft. …14 minutes of just holding down on the control stick...

Is it possible for a drone to reach that height? Yes. Likely? No.
The irony is before drones were popular, it was common to hear “ufo sightings” from pilots. Now everything they think they see must be a drone. ..makes for a good headlines..

"a drone flying just 200 feet above it as it was on approach to Los Angeles International Airport."

" an altitude of 5000 feet"

Christopher Elder's picture

altitude of 5,000 ft + 200 ft above it.....5,200 ft aka 80 ft away from being a mile above Earth; I agree with Charles Yaeger. I'm guessing this wasn't a drone, and if it was, it wasn't your average everyday user. For a drone to have that capability, it had to be very expensive. I would hope no novice would A. buy a drone that expensive B. fly it a mile high. is LA.

didnt they just do a report showing how drones causing damage to planes is less likely then birds?

You can't know for sure. It would involve prohibitively expensive testing. The engines themselves, if damaged, cost tens of millions. No joke. Yes, from a probabilities standpoint, little is 'likely' to happen, but this is an area where everyone prefers the risks to be as close to zero as possible. There is literally no tolerance for this kind of risk,

While i understand your point of taking no chances, if the drones give less risk then say a laser pointer, why do laser pointers not require registration? And if birds are a higher risk for hurting aircraft then what is being done about it?
The reason i bring this up is because i feel like the faa and community surrounding it are looking at drones as the boogey man. A big bad monster that really is just made up panic

Alex Cooke's picture

It would be literally impossible to register every laser pointer in the country. As for birds, a lot is done. Aircraft engines are designed to ingest a bird (note that birds are much softer than drones; this doesn't guarantee they could ingest a drone), and airports use falcons, explosions, and noise generators to keep birds away.

Thats a good point. I know drones can be a danger and im not saying that this guy is all good. he should be charged for a major crime. it just seems to me like the faa and pilots are trying to use scare tactics.

Well for the bird part, they use birds of prey to wards off other birds.

Pretty effective! Maybe they should use birds to tackle drones around Airport?

A Phantom 4

So if my maths is correct. A Phantom 4 has a service ceiling of 19685 feet. An ascent speed of about 19 feet/sec and a decent speed of 13 feet /sec. So the climb to 5000 feet is roughly 4 min and the decent is about 6 1/2 min. The max flight time of the drone is 28 min! Its do-able.

The only thing against this is at 260 MPH, how easy is it to identify the difference between a bird and a drone?

Oops, this was ment to be a reply to Gerald McBrighton!

It just makes sense.

Until DJI comes up with a camera to strap on your pet eagle.

There have been 112 planes damaged or struck by TURTLES since 2010. Drones? Zero. Zilch. None. Never. Stop the ridiculous fear-mongering.

What model of drone can fly at 5200ft?
I don't know of any

Josh Robertson's picture

How about a modified DJI Phantom II? Check out this a**hole going up over 11,000 feet...

Anonymous's picture

No doubt that guy goes dangerously high, but the only mod believed to have been done to that drone was disabling the gps height limiter. In that article they state it is hard to confirm the actual height. That video was discussed heavily on Peta Pixel this week. Here was my conclusion on that:

I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it was around 4,000ft. Phantom 2 has an ascent speed of 6m per second and a decent speed of 2m per second. The ascent in that video isn't sped up either, we can tell this by looking at the cars. So if we do the math, because he reached the "3K" point at 3:10, were looking at roughly 3,800 ft. (Even with an extra 30 seconds added for extra measure.) The fisheye on the GoPro is going to make it seem extremely high and in the mornings it is possible to get above lower level clouds like that, which makes the video appear as if you are "flyin high" at 10,000 ft.

The other falsehood.. 27% battery left.. at that height with a 2m per second decent speed... yeah, that drone isn't going to have a soft landing..

michael andrew's picture

If it was truly at 5,000 ft it is a strong likely hood that it was a malfunctioning flyway.

robert s's picture

only a matter of time till something fatal happens and then they wll be banned. ridiculous. a drone potentially causing a plan to crash is unacceptable. there will be one who will ruin it for everyone. no im not a drone owner. and dont care to be one.

i wanna see laser pointers banned b4 drones. Im all for regulation and this was obviously illegal but to say that the public cant fly an rc helicopter seems crazy to me.

robert s's picture

they wont be banned. and drones will be banned or mostly banned. its a matter of time till an incident like this happens with fatalities. wait and see.

Leigh Miller's picture

Banned is a bit strong...but I can see them being firmware restricted more aggressively. You simply cannot trust everyone to use common sense....flying too close to pedestrians, airports etc...

Like this fool:

Several of his videos were done in Toronto and the various airports can clearly be seen in the frame.

For the record, Toronto is very restricted with multiple airports, aerodromes etc because of the high concentration of hospitals etc. Plus we can't operate within 9km of built up areas...and yet I see drones buzzing around all the time. Even from adults who should know better.

Ian Keegan's picture

Excuse my n00bness regarding drone knowledge guys, but when using a phantom does it tell you your altitude on the HUD or do you just roughly guess it yourself?

Jayson Carey's picture

I believe the new ones at least are locked out 400ft. above where you label as "home"

More comments