If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know by now that the collision between a drone and a Boeing 737-700 in Mozambique last week didn’t actually happen.
As TDC reported today, a more thorough investigation revealed that the damage was caused by a structural failure – the radome, which apparently had been purchased used, buckled and partially collapsed on one side.
It’s an expensive fix. But the damage to the industry may be harder to repair.
Here’s TDC Executive Editor Scott Simmie.
And here’s a transcript of the podcast.
Hi, my name is Scott Simmie. I’m the Executive Editor of The Digital Circuit – and welcome to our first-ever podcast. Today the topic is the recent alleged collision between a Boeing 737-700 and a drone.
Now this was first reported, in the first week of January, by AVHerald.com.
And, according to the story, a flight called TM-136 was en route internally between Maputo to a city called Tete. It was descending when a loud bang was heard.
Now on landing, they got out and they had a look – and there was extensive damage to the nose, or radome, of the aircraft.
And if you haven’t heard that word before, a radome is a dome or structure that protects radar and other electronic equipment on board an aircraft – but is actually invisible to radio waves.
Well, it didn’t take long, of course, for the headlines to get out there. Here they are:
From the Express, in the UK: Drone CRASHES into Boeing 737 passenger jet coming in to land
From Moscow: Drone Smashes into Passenger Plane During Landing
From The Mirror: Drone crashes into Boeing 737 jet plane coming in to land at Mozambique airport
From Fortune Magazine: Drone Collides with Airliner in Mozambique
And even from Motherboard, part of Vice: A Passenger jet in Mozambique collided with a drone. It then read: “No one was harmed, but it again raises concerns about drones presenting a danger to passenger aircraft.”
And now today – January 10, 2017 – the truth comes out. An investigation by aviation authorities reveals that it was actually a structural failure. Not a drone, not a bird – but a used radome that had a defect.
Now that’s great – we’re glad it wasn’t a drone.
But two things actually WERE harmed here.
One: The reputation of this growing hobby and industry – which is already facing some regulatory clampdowns in certain jurisdictions.
Two: The credibility of the media – which loves to embrace the worse-case scenario.
Now this isn’t the first time it has happened. In one memorable incident at Heathrow, it was widely reported that a drone had struck a passenger aircraft. And it was later revealed, and this was in 2016, that the culprit was a plastic bag.
Now, some in this industry claim there’s never ever been a verified collision between a drone and a manned aircraft, but that’s not correct. in 2011 There was an incident involving a C-130 Hercules and a military UAV called an RQ-7 Shadow. It happened in Afghanistan and it left some pretty serious damage to the leading edge of the wing.
Now the Herc was able to come in and land, so it had a happy ending.
So we do know, with a drone of significant mass, there can be damage.
Now, that has not yet happened to a civilian airliner.
It’s been reported that it has – but it hasn’t.
At The Digital Circuit, we certainly hope it stays that way – and that the media is a little more careful with its facts.
We also hope that UAV pilots – whether hobbyists or professionals – obey all local regulations and stay clear of airports and flight paths.
Because, the truth is, there have been numerous reports of near-misses. And for us, that’s too close for comfort.
For The Digital Circuit, I’m Scott Simmie.