Nothing found in Kaiapoi drone probe

  • 16/10/2015

A three-week probe by air safety investigators and police has failed to find a suspect drone or its owner after an Air New Zealand pilot complained about a close call after taking off from Christchurch.

The Civil Aviation Authority has finished its investigation into the claim, where an Airbus A320 pilot reported he spotted a red drone at 6000 feet – about 1.8km – above Kaiapoi, well above a 400ft limit for the unmanned craft.

The CAA report says the pilot judged the drone to be about 1m long and half a metre wide and "not a normal aircraft configuration".

It contrasted quite clearly against the cloud cover below and was observed for around five seconds.

The CAA did not say how fast either aircraft were travelling.

While nothing was turned up, CAA acting director John Kay says the case has help highlight public awareness of drone operating rules.

Drone operators were now filing more flight plan authorisation requests on the Airshare website.

"We were pleased that six witnesses came forward to help us with our investigation," Mr Kay said.

The flight from Christchurch to Auckland on September 25 was carrying 166 people aboard.

While no evasive action was needed, Air New Zealand described the drone operator as reckless and without courage in coming forward.

However, some drone operators questioned whether the pilot had actually seen a drone at that height or something else.