Danger warnings issued after reported near-miss drone incident over Blackpool Promenade
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Blackpool airport, though not commenting on the incident in question said that anyone using a drone or model aircraft had to be aware of the restricted flight zones along the Fylde coast to prevent any accidents.
Since March 2019 there has been drone flight restriction zones around all airports and airfields where it is illegal to fly any drone, at any time, within the restricted zones unless the operator has permission from air traffic control.
The Fylde coast's restricted zones include the airspace around the Warton aerodrome and around Blackpool Airport in a circle from Ansdell in the South to just north of South Pier.
The incident, which happened while the Promenade was busy with visitors, was reported by specialist security firm Drone Defence Services which monitors no-fly zones across the UK for drone flights.
Its report stated: "Just after 3pm on October 15, an illegally flown drone and a manned IKARUS C42 light aircraft came within 330ft of each other above South Pier in Blackpool within the Flight Restriction Zone of Blackpool Airport.
"The privately owned IKARUS C42 with tail number G-ZOMB took off from Manchester City Airport at Barton at 13:16pm before flying to Blackpool airport via Southport. At 15:02 the plane was flying at 600ft above South Pier while a drone was flying at 750ft."
Victoria Kay from Drone Defence Services said that the incident highlighted the danger of irresponsible use of the radio-controlled model aircraft and how certain areas of the skies had to be left clear.
She said: "Obviously if a pilot is distracted while carrying out a critical manoeuvre it can be a danger and if the drone goes into the engine, be that a jet engine or a propeller, then a crash could occur.
"This incident was over a busy area and so potentially could have been disastrous."
A spokesman for Blackpool airport said: "It is Blackpool Airport’s policy not to comment on external third party incident reports.
"The airport strongly advises that all prospective drone operators are acting lawfully and comply with the CAA legal regulations, ensuring that the correct permits and licences are in place prior to operating a drone.
"Blackpool Airport has a ‘no fly zone’ in place and requests are to be made to the airport seven days in advance of any flight activity.
"The airport has a strict safeguarding policy and operational and air traffic safety is of the highest importance, complying with all CAA regulations."
Blackpool airport's safety website states: “Anyone wishing to fly a drone to film the Illuminations in the vicinity of the airport (from Central Pier as far as Starr Gate) would need permission from Air Traffic Control at Blackpool Airport via the airport website Drone Flight application link. A CAA approved professional drone operator’s qualification is usually necessary to fly in that area.
“While we don’t want to stop people having fun, it’s important that they are not posing a risk to any other aircraft or people."