Drone: Military Chinook in near miss with ‘object’ over London skies

Stock image of a Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter over London. (Photo by CARL COURT/AFP via Getty Images)
Stock image of a Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter over London. (Photo by CARL COURT/AFP via Getty Images)

A British military Chinook helicopter came within 30 feet of a drone over London, papers reveal.

On May 3 this year a passenger reported seeing an object of up to a metre in size flying below and to the left of the Chinook, over Rotherhithe.

A report by the UK Airprox Board, which assesses airbourne incidents in UK airspace, concluded that “a definite risk of collision had existed”.

The incident happened at about 6pm, when the tandem-rotor, Boeing-made Chinook was returning to base along route H4, which follows the path of the River Thames through London.

The report states: “The passenger was at the rear of the cabin, owing to poor into-sun visibility and haze from the cockpit. They were cleared to not above 1,300ft on the Heathrow QNH and the minimum was 1,000ft in that section.

“The passenger reported that a quadcopter of 50cm-1m size passed 30ft below and 30ft to the left of the aircraft.

“They reported seeing a flash of red colouring. It was not clear whether the drone was stationary or moving.”

The report said no other member of the operating crew saw the object and that Heathrow’s radar service had made no mention of commercial unmanned flights in the area.

The Chinook was operated by Joint Helicopter Command, which brings under one command battlefield helicopters of the Royal Navy, Army Air Corps and Royal Air Force.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it does not comment on specific incidents.

An RAF spokesperson said: “The RAF regularly conducts essential flying training across the whole of the UK, drones operating in the vicinity of our aircraft can offer a significant threat to their safety and can be extremely challenging for our aircrew to spot and take avoiding action. We continue to encourage users to fly their assets responsibly and legally in accordance with CAA regulations.”

The UK Airprox Board report said the risk of collision was high and that “the description of the object was sufficient to indicate that it could have been a drone”.