Police drone crashes into small plane in Canada

A Canadian pilot instructor and his student are lucky to be alive after a police drone crashed into their small aircraft – a 1976 Cessna 172N – a couple of weeks ago.

A report on this incident only surfaced on August 18.

The Canadian Transportation Safety Board is investigating after the drone – belonging to York regional police – collided with the airplane as the latter was approaching Buttonville Airport in Markham, Toronto, last week.

Police confirmed to Canada’s CityNews they had deployed a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), known more commonly as a drone, as part of an investigation near the airport on August 10.

While it was being operated, the drone collided with a Cessna 172 operated by Canadian Flyers International that was attempting to land.

Aboard the Cessna was the instructor and a student pilot.

No injuries were reported and the plane was able to land without any further incidents.

In the report to Transport Canada, which was submitted eight days after the incident on August 18, it was said the drone had unauthorised entry to a “controlled airspace.”

The report said the two people on board thought they had hit a large bird and “had felt a jolt that pushed them back on their seat.”

“At 1NM Northwest of Buttonville, Ontario, a Canadian Flyers International Inc. Cessna 172N (C-GKWL) on a flight to Toronto/Buttonville, was struck by a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) while on final approach into (the airport),” the report reads. “The RPAS was part of a York Police Services operation in the area of Richmond Hill. No reporting of injuries or extent of the damage to the aircraft. NAV CANADA (the corporation that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system) had not been advised of the RPAS operation.”

The report went on:

“The instructor for a Canadian Flyers International Inc. Cessna 172N (C-GKWL) reported that they had just turned from base leg to final for Runway 15 at Toronto/Buttonville and were established and stable at 1100 ASL, or about 500 AGL, when they felt a jolt that pushed them back on their seat.

“They thought they had hit a large bird. They proceeded to land. There was no change in configuration or power since they were about to land. When exiting the aircraft, they were shocked to see a major dent on the left underside of the engine cowling. The airbox was also bent.

“A few hours later, a police detective confirmed a York Regional Police drone had struck their aircraft. The aircraft suffered major damage, including a propeller strike.”

A statement from the federal agency confirmed the incident and said investigations were ongoing.

“Transport Canada is reviewing information regarding this incident and the department will not hesitate to take appropriate action should we identify any safety or regulatory deficiencies.”

York police say they are currently waiting on the TSB’s investigation for more details.

Dario Matrundola, who is one of the owners of the Canadian Flyers flight school, said had the drone struck a few inches further away, both occupants could’ve been killed.

“It would have been a tragedy, it would’ve been loss of life or injuries for sure,” said Matrundola. “The pilots are very lucky they were able to land the plane and avoid injuries.”

Matrundola was at the airport when the plane landed and said they immediately noticed significant damage on the aircraft. He said the pilots were given no indication there was a drone in the area at the time of the mid-air collision.

“We don’t really get air restrictions for drones because the drones, legally, are not allowed in the certain vicinity of an airport, unless it came directly from the Ministry for approval so no one would’ve been expecting that.”

Matrundola says he was very surprised to find out the drone had been operated by York police.

“I found it was just a complete disregard for safety. I’m surprised that could happen from an establishment that is supposed to be setting the example.”

He said it will likely take several months for the plane’s extensive damage to be repaired, which he says will have a large impact on his business.


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