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Drone comes within feet of striking Air France plane at Paris airport

By Ed Adamczyk Follow @adamczyk_ed Contact the Author   |   March 4, 2016 at 9:05 AM
| License Photo

PARIS, March 4 (UPI) -- An unidentified drone came within 16 feet of striking an Air France passenger jet preparing to land in Paris, the French air-accident investigation agency reported.

The incident, described Friday by the Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyse, occurred on the night of Feb. 19 at Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport.

An Air France Airbus A320, which can carry up to 150 people, descended to 5,200 feet as it arrived from Barcelona when the co-pilot observed a drone in his line of vision. The co-pilot overruled the plane's autopilot function and manually maneuvered the plane to avoid contact with the drone. The plane landed safely.

The captain estimated the drone came within 16 feet of the left wing of the plane before flying away. The BEA referred to the incident as "serious" and a "near collision."

French law prohibits drone flights above 492 feet or near no-fly zones, which include airports and nuclear power plants. Few commercially available drones are capable of reaching that altitude.

While the government agency said it is unaware of who was flying the drone, some analysts suggest it may have been the work of French environmental activists dramatizing a lack of security near nuclear plants. Drones were seen flying over French nuclear plants in 2014, and over and near Paris landmarks in 2015.

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