The near miss happened while the plush plane was cruising at 200mph and 4,000ft above Luton airport. Flying at four times the allowed height, the drone was far too close for comfort. The Mirror claimed it is the joint closest near miss recorded in a UK airspace. The £46million 14-seat Bombardier jet was owned by rental company NetJets. The aircraft often carries showbiz starts and royalty, including the Duke and Duchess.
It was flying from Nice to Luton just after Midday on August 26, just 14miles from the airport, when the object almost collided with it. It is not known if the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were on board, although they had been on holiday in Nice that week - staying at Sir Elton John's luxury residence - and had travelled to the south of France with NetJets. The report did not disclose the identity of any passengers. A flying expert said if the device had shattered the cockpit windscreen it could have killed the crew. Former BA pilot Terry Tozer said: “The damage could have been really serious. If a drone hit the windshield it could kill or incapacitate at least one of the flight crew.
“It could also be ingested into an engine with a similar outcome to a bird strike. These types of incidents are going to be an increasing problem. It’s a real concern for pilots.” He added: “Stricter regulations have been brought in but you will always get people who don’t care about the rules. “It’s very difficult to know how we are going to control drones.” The UK Airprox Board, which investigates near misses, rated the latest incident as the most dangerous at Category A.
Its report said: “The Board considered the pilot’s overall account of the incident portrayed a situation where providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed. “The GL6000S pilot reports he was inbound to Luton when he saw a drone moving west to east at around 4000ft. “The drone appeared to have some sort of light source at the front. The size was difficult to judge but best estimate was 50cm by 50cm. It was estimated to pass within 10ft of the aircraft.”
Bedfordshire Police were contacted, but it is understood the drones owner has not been traced. Flying such devices near airports is illegal. Flightglobal’s David Learmount said police were struggling to identify drone pilots under current laws. He said: “Everyone who owns a drone has to register themselves but bringing people to justice is very difficult if you can’t find the drone. “The only solution, which is very expensive, would be to fit ID transponders to every drone."
There have been a number of near misses between drones and aircrafts since the devices became available on the market. The close shave came a year after flights were suspended at Gatwick for more than 36 hours because of several drone sightings in the area. The CAA said: “It is illegal to fly drones close to airports without permission and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties, including jail. “The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all airspace users safe.” Harry and Meghan were criticised for their high carbon footprint when they headed to the South of France just two days after a private flight to Ibiza.