Sunday, December 20, 2015

Incident occurred December 20, 2015 near Allegheny County Airport (KAGC), West Mifflin, Pennsylvania

WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. — The Federal Aviation Administration and Allegheny County Police are investigating after a pilot reported seeing a drone not far from the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.

According to the Allegheny County Airport Authority, the drone was spotted three miles east of the airport around 10 a.m. Sunday.

“The FAA has come out with regulations that you’re not allowed to fly drones within five miles of an airport or higher than 400 feet,” said Bob Kerlik, spokesman for the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

Officials told Channel 11 News that the plane, a Canadair Regional (CRJ 2) aircraft, was 5,000 feet in the air when the drone was seen.

“Incidents like this, both at Pittsburgh International and Allegheny County Airport have been relatively rare,” said Kerlik. “We have had a few incidents of drone sightings. People have been, I think, smart for the most part not flying drones around airports.”

It was recently announced that the federal government will require that drones be registered to make it easier to identify owners and educate amateur aviators.

Owners will have to register on an FAA website that becomes available starting Monday.

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WEST MIFFLIN, Pa. —A drone was spotted by a pilot near the Allegheny County airport Sunday morning.

According to Allegheny County Airport Authority spokesman Bob Kerlik, a pilot flying at an altitude of 5,000 feet spotted a black drone, 3 miles east of the county airport.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration says the crew of a commercial flight operated by Air Wisconsin reported seeing the unmanned aircraft around 10 a.m. Sunday.

Kerlik said the Allegheny County and Pittsburgh International Airports haven't had too many issues with drones.

"Incidents like this, both at Pittsburgh International Airport and Allegheny County have been relatively rare, we have had a few incidents of drone sightings. People have been, I think, smart for the most part, not flying drones around airports," Kerlik said.

Kerlik said current FAA regulations prohibit flying a drone within a 5-mile radius of an airport or above an altitude of 400 feet.

Sky 4 pilot Del Richardson said he's had two close calls with drones while flying over the city of Pittsburgh.

Richardson said despite a drone's size relative to a helicopter, they can cause real damage.

"It could hit the main rudder, causing imbalance, or it could get caught in the tail rudder and cause a systems failure of the tail rudder, in which case you'd get a loss of control," Richardson said.

As for airplanes, Richardson mentioned the so-called Miracle on the Hudson. when a U.S. Airways flight was struck by birds and landed in the Hudson River.  He said drones of a similar size can be scary.

Richardson added that other helicopter pilots he's spoken with have seen similar issues as drones rise in popularity.

This close call at the Allegheny County airport comes a day before the Federal Aviation Administration will start requiring registration of drones that weigh more than half a pound.

Richardson said drone registration is a good first step; however, he wants to see more regulations for operators as well.

"Right now, I think they're very dangerous. Because the people who fly them aren't educated in flying. They're becoming Christmas gifts and novelty toys and they're fun, but they fly them in dangerous ways and in dangerous areas," Richardson said.

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