LONDON (CNN) — British police and government aviation investigators have launched inquiries after a passenger jet was struck by what was believed to be a drone as it approached a London airport Sunday.
British Airways Flight BA727 from Geneva, Switzerland, was coming in to land at London’s Heathrow Airport when the pilot said he thought a drone had struck the front of the aircraft, London Metropolitan Police said.
The Airbus A320 landed safely, with none of the 132 passengers and five crew members on board injured, British Airways spokesman Michael Johnson said.
The aircraft was then thoroughly examined by engineers who declared it safe to undertake its next flight, he said.
Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch announced Monday that it was also looking into the incident.
It’s unclear whose drone may have hit the plane, and no arrests have been made over the incident, police said Monday.
‘Totally Unacceptable’: Civil Aviation Authority
In response to the incident, Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority issued a statement calling on all drone operators to follow rules.
They included making sure drones are always within the operator’s line of sight, not flying above 400 feet (122 meters), and staying away from airports and aircraft.
“It is totally unacceptable to fly drones close to airports, and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment,” said the statement.
Dodging Drones in the Sky
While it’s unusual for a drone to strike a plane, there have been plenty of close calls — especially in the United States.
Hundreds of drones have flown dangerously close to manned aircraft in U.S. airspace, forcing pilots to sometimes take evasive action, according to Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone.
A recent report, based on the center’s analysis of Federal Aviation Administration data from August 21, 2015 to January 31, 2016, said there were 519 incidents involving passenger aircraft and unmanned drones in the U.S. within that period.
That was three times as many incidents as in the same period a year earlier.
One in three were classed as “close encounters.” These were defined as incidents where a pilot either had to take evasive action, declared a “near mid-air collision,” or described a drone as being dangerously close — or when the drone came within 500 feet (152 meters) of the aircraft.
On 24 occasions within the reporting period, a drone reportedly came within 50 feet (15 meters) of a plane, and on 11 occasions, the pilot was forces to take evasive action.
Three out of five incidents occurred within five miles of an airport, according to the report.
Unmanned aircraft systems are not supposed to fly within five miles of an airport without notifying the control tower. Nor are they allowed to go above 400 feet.
The rate of close encounters between drones and planes is also rising in the United Kingdom, according to the Airprox Board, which tracks airline safety.
There were 23 close encounters from April to October 2015, with 12 classed as presenting a serious risk of collision, the board said.
Drones flying too close to commercial flights pose a serious threat to larger aircraft, and can be sucked into the engine or crash into the cockpit window, injuring or killing a pilot.