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Pilot Reports Seeing Drone In Sky Near JFK

The pilot of an Alitalia pilot flying into New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport told controllers Monday afternoon that he had spotted "a drone aircraft" 1,500 feet high in the sky and approximately 5 miles west of the airport.

ABC News, which has cockpit audio (from LiveATC.net) of the pilot's exchange with controllers, says the Federal Aviation Administration and the Joint Terror Task Force are investigating.

In a statement sent to CNN, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown says the pilot reported seeing "a small, unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft while on final approach to Runway 31 Right." The news network says that "puts the aircraft somewhere over Brooklyn."

Who was controlling the drone — if that is indeed what the pilot saw — isn't yet known.

As NBC News points out, "drones are growing in popularity with government agencies and the public."

CNN adds that:

"Unmanned aerial systems, sometimes called drones, and other remote-controlled planes could pose a risk to larger passenger aircraft if they collided or were sucked into an engine.

"For recreational hobbyists, flying remote-controlled planes is only allowed by the FAA up to 400 feet in the air, and within sight of the operator. If they are going to fly within three miles of an airport, they have to let air traffic controllers know.

"Flying unmanned aerial vehicles is illegal for most business purposes; however, governments and public entities such as police departments can apply for permission to operate them."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.