Virgin America Pilot Reports Seeing Drone on Approach Into Dallas Love Field

Virgin America flight lands without issue; police searching for drone pilot

A Virgin America pilot reported seeing a quadcopter drone ascend above him Tuesday night while on approach into Dallas Love Field Airport, city officials and the FAA say.

According to a statement from City Manager Jose Torres, Dallas police were notified by the Love Field tower that a pilot on Virgin Flight 769 from New York LaGuardia to Dallas reported seeing the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as they passed over the 19-story Crescent Hotel.

At the time of the sighting the pilot reported the plane's altitude at about 1,000 feet and the drone's altitude climbing to about 1,200 feet. With Dallas-Fort Worth being about 600 feet above mean sea level, the plane's altitude at the time of the sighting is estimated to be 400 feet above ground and the drone's is estimated to have been ascending to 600 feet above ground.

Dallas police dispatched their Air One helicopter to search for the drone and tweeted a photo at about midnight.

Federal Aviation Administration Mid-States Public Affairs Manager Lynn Lunsford said the flight crew reported seeing the red and green lights of the quadcopter over the runway and then it rose to approximately 200 feet above them as the plane descended toward runway 31R.

"The small aircraft should not have been in the air at all without permission from the Love Field tower," Lunsford said. "This applies to all flights within five miles of any airport."

The pilot of Virgin's Airbus 319 did not have to take evasive action and the flight landed safely just before 9:30 p.m.

At this time the operator of the UAV has not been located.

A Virgin America pilot reported seeing a quadcopter drone ascend above him Tuesday night while on approach into Dallas Love Field Airport, city officials and the FAA say.

More and More Pilots Report Seeing Drones Near Airports

In just the last year there have been several high profile examples commercial pilots coming into close contact with UAVs in protected airspace.

According to FAA data, in October 2014 a drone crashed near Dallas Love Field. In July 2014, an Envoy Air flight heading to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport reported a drone at 3,000 feet passing 500 feet off to its left side at the same elevation.

And in June 2014, a man posted a YouTube video showing his drone over AT&T Stadium before it crashed into the building. The man later said he was flying at 700 feet and lost radio control.

Authorities say a pilot reported that a drone flew above an airplane trying to land at Dallas Love Field Tuesday night.

FAA Proposes New Rules for Flying UAVs

In February, the FAA released a proposal for new rules regarding UAVs to improve safety in the skies while still giving people the freedom to fly.

Under the proposal, drones can only be flown during daylight hours, below 500 feet at 100 mph or less and five miles away from airports. Pilots would have to maintain constant visual contact with the drone and would be required to hold a new FAA certificate.

To see the entire proposal click here.

Editor's note: Initial reports indicated the drone was about 600 feet off the ground while air traffic control chatter had the drone's altitude at about 1,200 feet. A revised statement was issued Wednesday morning that clarifies the altitude to account for local elevation above mean sea level, which is about 600 feet.

NBC 5's Ellen Bryan, Frank Heinz and Chris Van Horne contributed to this report.

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