Newark Liberty International Airport was forced to stop flights on Tuesday evening after officials spotted a drone in the airspace of a nearby airport. Initial reports claimed two drones were seen flying in protected airspace, though they were later clarified as a single drone seen near Teterboro Airport. The FAA stepped in to ground flights, which have since resumed.
Under current FAA regulations, drones are not allowed to operate within a certain distance of airports. This rule aims to protect large aircraft from damage that could result if they were to collide with a small drone. Despite the restrictions, some drone owners have been found operating their drones within the protected airspace — sometimes without realizing they’d gone too far, and other times intentionally.
Late Tuesday evening, the FAA reported that it had to stop flights at Newark Liberty International, one of the nation’s largest airports, after at least one drone was seen operating near Teterboro Airport, which is located about 15 miles away. Reports of the drone sighting came from the crews of multiple flights.
An FAA spokesperson reported that the drone was seen operating 3,500ft above Teterboro around 5PM local time. The flight restriction has since been lifted, allowing flights to resume at both Teterboro and Newark. Federal law enforcement and both the New York and New Jersey Port Authorities are investigating the matter.
According to a report from ABC, air traffic controller audio heard via LiveATC.net included one pilot who claimed the drone had been come within about 30ft of the approaching aircraft’s wing. If true, this wouldn’t be the first time a drone operator has positioned a small UAV close to a passenger plane.
In 2018, a video surfaced online captured by a camera drone that showed it positioned immediately above a plane approaching McCarran International Airport near Vegas. As well, the UK experienced a massive flight disruption over the 2018 holiday travel period due to rogue drone presence.