Federal Aviation Administration

North Texas Pilot Has Near Miss With Drone

A local pilot says a drone narrowly missed his plane over the weekend while flying at 3,500 feet.

David Stallsmith says he was in a private plane about eight miles west of DFW International Airport, when he says a big white object came out of nowhere and missed his plane by 50-100 feet.

Stallsmith described the incident as a "narrow miss" Sunday afternoon. In fact he can be heard alerting approach controllers of the unusual sight outside the cockpit,

"3051 whiskey, there is a drone on my left wing tip at 3,500 feet," he told controllers.

Stallsmith says the object had a square bottom, four propellers and a mounted camera.

"It was probably about 100 feet off my left wing tip, a white drone, clear as day," he told controllers on air traffic.

Stallsmith says the incident happened in airspace where drones are not allowed.

In fact he was four miles east of Alliance Airport and according to the FAA, if flying a drone within five miles of an airport, operators are supposed to contact the control tower and airport operator ahead of time.

Retired airline captain and aviation expert Denny Kelly says drones have a flight height limitation of 400 feet. and that Sunday's alleged near-miss is not only illegal, but also not that uncommon.

"This is not unusual, and it's extremely dangerous, people look at these drones and they think well how can that big airplane with all that metal how can it possibly hurt it? Very simple," Kelly said.

"You can very easily penetrate the windshield and disable the pilot, it can very easily get into an engine and shut the engine down," he said.

Kelly says it's a troublesome reality and that there needs to be stricter enforcement. "I really believe they're going to have to do something, possibly put some kind of chip in these drones that transmits where the drone is and it transmits some kind of signal that identifies the drone," he said.

The FAA says the chip technology is something that is being considered by an Aviation Rulemaking Committee and that they expect recommendations later this summer.

Stallsmith told NBC 5 over the phone "I don't mind people flying drones, but you have to be safe and at that point you have to be a pilot and follow the rules like everyone else for everyone's safety."

The FAA says a drone operator could face penalties from $1,400 - $32,000. The FAA also asks "responsibly" drone operators to voluntarily observe the safety regulations and guidelines:

  1.  Don’t fly above 400 feet
  2. Don’t operate directly over people
  3. Keep the drone in sight at all times
  4. Daytime only
  5. If operating within five miles of an airport, contact the control tower and airport operator ahead of time
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