For around an hour last week Frankfurt Airport was shut down after a drone was spotted near the runway – sparking flight chaos across Europe.
An airport spokesman said Thursday that a pilot reported seeing a drone and the airport was closed down from about 7:20 a.m. until 8:20 a.m. (0520 GMT until 0620 GMT) while German federal police searched for the drone and its operator with a helicopter. The airport has since reopened. Police are continuing to investigate the incident.
After flights resumed the airport tweeted about operations being suspended at 07:27, before the suspension was lifted at 08:15, with flights resuming at 08:18. It’s the second such incident at the airport. News agency DPA reported Operator Fraport saying takeoffs and landings were suspended on March 22 as a precaution for 29 minutes. They resumed after federal police using a helicopter found no more sign of the drone. Around 60 of Friday’s 1,439 scheduled Frankfurt flights were cancelled, which was due to an unrelated computer problem at an air traffic control centre. The drone caused some extra delays, Fraport added.
The aviation authority said 143 take-offs and landings were cancelled and 48 aircraft already in the air were diverted to other airports among a total of 1,500 scheduled flights on Thursday. The drone, which was approximately 1.5 metres in diameter, was spotted by several pilots. It was initially thought two drones had been sighted but it was later clarified that only one had been seen.
Lufthansa Airlines, the airport’s biggest customer, said: “Due to a drone sighting at Frankfurt Airport, the flight operations are currently discontinued.”The safety of our passenger has the highest priority.”
Flying a drone is legal in Germany with strict rules to be followed. An amendment to air traffic regulations entered into force in 2017 that prohibits drones being flown within 1.5km of an airport. Drones are also banned from being flown in controlled airspace. Drones are not allowed to be flown over crowds, hospitals, prisons, government buildings, federal highways and railways. Drone operators must also keep their device within sight during the flight and not fly higher than 100 metres.
DFS spokeswoman Ute Otterbein previously told the Hessenschau that the main challenge for air traffic control is that drones are not visible on the radar.
The number of drones’ sightings continues to increase. Last year, for example, German Air Traffic Control (DFL) registered 125 disruptions in the area around airports. The most disruptions (31) occurred at Frankfurt Airport, followed by Berlin-Tegel (17), Munich (14) and Hamburg (12).
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