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After A Drone Nearly Hit Its Passenger Plane, Air New Zealand Calls For Stricter Regulations

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| March 28 , 2018 , 15:50 IST

A near collision between a drone and a passenger airplane on March 25 has prompted Air New Zealand to call for stricter regulations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones operators.

The incident took place on Sunday when a drone came within 5 meters of a flight descending into Auckland Airport from Tokyo, putting the safety of 278 passengers and crew at risk.

After Sunday’s incident, the national carrier is calling for prison terms for drone operators who endanger lives.

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Air NZ Chief Operations Integrity and Standards Officer Captain David Morgan said, "NZ92 was just metres away from a serious incident on Sunday. The pilots spotted the drone at a point in the descent where it was not possible to take evasive action."

Morgan said it was clear that "tougher deterrents" were needed to prevent "reckless drone-use around airports", and called for prison terms for drone operators who endangered lives.

The drone came so close that the crew initially feared it would get sucked into the engine, said Air NZ.

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However, Boeing 777-200 plane and all its 278 passengers were unharmed.

It was immediately not clear who was controlling the drone.

As per the current laws, individual drone operators who breach Civil Aviation Rules can be fined up to NZ$5000 ($3,600).

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand, drones are required to be kept at least 4kmaway from any aerodrome.

The incident is the second example of reckless drone use this month.

Flight operations at Auckland airport were halted for 30 minutes on 6 March after a pilot reported a drone within controlled airspace.