Air New Zealand calls for tighter drone regulations after plane's near miss

Air New Zealand is calling for tougher regulations around drones after one came within five metres of a flight carrying 278.

Pilots of the Boeing 777-200 noticed the drone hovering close to the aircraft as it descended toward the tarmac in Auckland on Sunday afternoon.

It was too late into the descent to take evasive action, meaning the pilots could only hope the plane did not sustain damage due to the drone.

"It passed so close to the incoming aircraft that they were concerned it may have been ingested into the engine," Air New Zealand chief operations and integrity standards officer Captain David Morgan said.

An inspection of the plane's engines upon landing shows the drone was not sucked into them, but the airline is still calling for tighter regulation to avoid such incidents in future.

"It's clear the time has now come for tougher deterrents for reckless drone use around airports to safeguard travellers, including imposing prison terms in the case of life-threating incidents," Captain Morgan said.

It's the second time in March drone flights have caused havoc with Air New Zealand flights, following a 30-minute halt in flights at Auckland Airport on March 6 due to a reckless drone operator.

Under current regulations, a drone operator who breaches civil aviation rules can be fined up to $5000.

Captain Morgan said the airline would like to see tougher and more consistent penalties for drone operators who breach regulations.

Airways head of strategy Trent Fulcher spoke to Duncan Garner.