FAA investigating pilot's report that unmanned aircraft was spotted near NYC's JFK Airport

  • Article by: Associated Press
  • Updated: March 5, 2013 - 3:57 PM

NEW YORK - The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday they are investigating a pilot's report that he spotted a small unmanned aircraft near Kennedy Airport.

The Alitalia pilot told controllers that he saw the aircraft as he approached a Kennedy runway at about 1:15 p.m. Monday. The pilot said the aircraft was roughly 3 miles southeast of the airport runway and was flying at an altitude of about 1,750 feet.

The FBI said the unmanned aircraft was described as black with four propellers and no more than 3 feet wide. It came within 200 feet of the Alitalia plane, the FBI said.

"The FBI is asking anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact us," Special Agent in Charge John Giacalone said. "Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew."

The Alitalia pilot can be heard on radio calls captured by LiveATC.net, a website that posts air traffic communications, saying, "We saw a drone, a drone aircraft." The FAA said the pilot did not take evasive action and the plane landed safely.

The FAA and FBI did not say whether passengers might have seen the unmanned aircraft.

It's unclear what the small aircraft was. Some remote-controlled planes flown by hobbyists are wider than 3 feet. Under FAA rules, model planes are restricted to altitudes of 400 feet or less.

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