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Photo: Newark Liberty International Airport

Flights stop as drone flies 9m from plane

Police are investigating as drone sightings disrupt operations at a major US airport.

Flights were grounded temporarily at Newark International Airport near New York after two drones were spotted flying nearby, the BBC reports.

A pilot flying at nearby Teterboro Airport told air traffic controllers that a drone came within nine metres of his aircraft, and Newark International – the USA’s 11th busiest – closed as a precaution.

The incident comes a month after major disruption at London’s Gatwick Airport, where drone sightings grounded hundreds of flights over three days. That incident cost easyJet €17 million in customer welfare costs and lost revenues.

“At approximately 5pm, we received two reports from incoming flights into Newark that a drone was sighted at about 3,500ft above Teterboro, New Jersey,” the US Federal Aviation Authority said in a statement.

“At that point, flights arriving into Newark were held for a short duration. Since then, and with no further drone sightings, arrivals have been resumed.

“However, we still have a ground stop in place at other airports departing for Newark until a backlog of arrivals can be cleared. We expect that to be lifted soon.”

Growing menace
Police are investigating the incident. United Airlines commented that “the impact to our operations has been minimal so far”.

Drones are becoming an increasing menace to aviation, with pilots repeatedly warning they have the potential to cause a major disaster. Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, says recent incidents are a “wake-up call”.

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