Drone Hit on British Airliner Adds Urgency to Calls for New Defenses
NEWS ANALYSIS: There’s no question that irresponsible drone use endangers passenger aircraft, but most of the proposed solutions to this threat miss the mark.I glanced out the right window of the cockpit as my aircraft climbed out of Tappahannock, Va., and in the distance, I could see the sparkle of the Chesapeake on this gloriously clear day as I headed for a landing at Manassas, Va. The Rappahannock River slid behind me and I could feel a little turbulence as I rose above the farmland on Virginia's Northern Neck. Ahead of me, I saw the sparkling blue of the lower Potomac. Just as I was nearing the point of land that holds the Navy's weapons research facility at Dahlgren, Va., the aircraft was staggered by what felt like a blow. I looked at my wings, and they were intact. A test of my control surfaces showed that the aircraft was responding correctly, but now I'd lost all power to the instruments. I had no radio and no navigation. Fortunately, I could see the long scar that is Interstate 95, and I knew that I could find the airport visually. I followed the highway that leads to the airport, turned across the airport to look for traffic, and then entered the pattern and landed on the airport's longest runway because my electrically operated flaps wouldn't function.
I rolled to a long stop and then taxied to my tie-down. The verdict? Clear air turbulence had knocked out my electrical system, which might have been enough to bring down the aircraft.