ENID, Okla. (AP) — Officials at a northern Oklahoma air force base are asking the public to keep recreational drones away from aircraft after a near collision on a training flight.
Lt. Col. Eric Schmidt works at Vance Air Force Base. He told the Enid News & Eagle that an aircraft on a Jan. 9 training flight came within about 50 feet of a drone flying at an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet. The drone had a light on, but wasn't immediately spotted, Schmidt said.
People who fly drones recreationally often don't realize how dangerous a drone can be to an aircraft, Schmidt said. A drone colliding with an aircraft could structurally damage the aircraft and put the lives of crew and people on the ground in danger, he said.
"There's somebody out there who has a toy, and it could cause us harm," Schmidt said. "It could have killed those guys."
Drone operators need permission to fly within 5 miles of an airport or military airfield, according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Military training routes also have drone regulations, Schmidt said.
Military aircraft typically fly at an altitude of 500 feet or higher when following training routes. Drone operators must not go higher than 400 feet when flying under training routes. They're also required to notify the base in advance so pilots are aware and exercise extra caution.
"I'm concerned more about the safety impact to our aircrews than I am about prosecuting illegal drone activity," Schmidt said. "I just want people to understand, if they are flying drones near Vance Air Force Base training aircraft, they are putting lives in danger."