WestJet pilots notify Edmonton police of ‘drone flying off left wing’

WestJet plan nearly collides with drone
READ MORE: Edmonton police are warning drone pilots after an incoming WestJet plan narrowly avoided a mid-air collision. Sarah Kraus reports.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Police said Wednesday the aircraft and drone were flying at about 4,000 feet but WestJet clarified Thursday the aircraft was at 6,000 feet above sea level and the drone was 2,000 feet below the plane.

Police are investigating what they’re calling a “near miss” after WestJet pilots saw a drone near the plane while trying to land at Edmonton International Airport Tuesday evening.

The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) said drone was described as “pallet-sized.”

“It’s extremely dangerous when you consider the consequences of a flying object that size coming into contact with the airplane,” EPS spokesman Scott Pattison said.

He said the plane was flying over southwest Edmonton at the time, which is especially concerning given how densely populated the area is.

“Not only is it dangerous for everybody on the plane but certainly when you’re over a southwest neighbourhood — south of the Hamptons at last report — all of those lives are in jeopardy on the ground too.”

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READ MORE: Edmonton police lay 1st charges in relation to dangerous use of a drone

On Thursday, WestJet said the Encore (flight 3362) plane was flying at about 6,000 feet above sea level and the drone was spotted about 2,000 feet below the plane. Given the airport is located 2,372 feet above sea level, the drone was likely flying at 1,628 feet above ground level — or 496 metres.

That means the drone was flying about 400 metres higher than it’s allowed to under Transport Canada rules.

Navigation Canada reported the incident to Edmonton police at about 5:15 p.m. after the commercial airline pilots saw “a drone flying off the left wing of their aircraft.”

“Our flight crew continued their approach without incident or impact to operations as they determined there was no risk to the aircraft, guests or crew,” WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell said in an email to Global News.

“As safety is our top priority, we do thank the Edmonton Police Service for communicating on drone safety and join them in reminding the public that the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles must follow the guidelines outlined by Transport Canada.”

WATCH: The dos and don’ts when it comes to flying a drone

Police are investigating this event and reminding people about Transport Canada’s rules regarding Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV):

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  • Must stay below 90 metres (about 300 feet) above the ground
  • Must stay at least 30 metres (about 100 feet) away from vehicles, vessels and the public (that distance expands for heavier drones)
  • Must stay at least 5.6 kilometres away from any airport, seaplane base, or areas where aircraft take off and land
  • Must stay outside controlled or restricted airspace
  • Must stay within 500 metres of the operator

Edmonton police ask anyone with information about this particular case to contact them at 780.423.4567.

“Or who might have been operating in the Edgemont area, near the Hamptons, south of Lessard Road. Maybe you’ve seen them in parks,” Pattison said.

“Having one the size of that — whether it be two-by-two or three-by-three — the size of a pallet, as was described by the pilots, that’s fairly different. You don’t see that size in drones very often.”