Suspected drone grounds flights at OR Tambo

South Africa had a suspected case of a drone disturbing flights at a major airport this week.

This Thursday, local airline Fly Safair announced that its flights from OR Tambo International Airport had to remain grounded for some time, allegedly because a drone has been spotted in the vicinity of the airport.

“We regret to inform you about extensive delays caused by an unauthorised drone in the airspace,” the airline announced on its website and social media pages.

“On average, there is a delay of approximately 60 minutes, and subsequent delays may affect other flights. We understand the inconvenience this may cause and want to assure affected passengers that our teams are working diligently with the relevant authorities to address the issue and restore normal operations as quickly as possible.

“We would like to extend our apologies to the customers of these flights for the inconvenience of this delay, and we thank them for their patience in allowing us to always act conservatively in the interest of safety.”

Prior to this, the only other reported case of a drone disturbing flights was in 2019; it was at OR tambo again, and then, just as now, flights at the airport were grounded because an object believed to be a drone had allegedly been spotted flying too close to the airport.

At that time, Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS) spokesperson Percy Morokane said the alleged drone, was sighted just over six kilometres north west of the airport and reported to the ATNS just after 11AM on August 25 in 2019.

“Joint ATNS/Airports Company SA precautionary safety measures were initiated – as per ICAO global Airport Safety Protocols,” Morokane said at the time.

“Arrivals were not affected at all. This incident (was) reported to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) for a formal investigation.”

This is not a proud record to own; and we hope one of these days enough punitive measures would be taken on these offenders so they understand just how much danger they pose aircraft passengers and to the drone industry as a whole. It is enough that the industry in Africa is fighting hard to convince aviation authorities that drone integration into the airspace would be a safe undertaking.

It certainly does not need a bunch of drone idiots coming in and fouling up things for everyone.


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