Drone sighting over NYC has FBI on alert; craft came within 200 feet of Alitalia jet

Posted at 8:23 PM, Mar 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-05 22:44:52-05

It was an unusual call to air traffic control at Kennedy Airport.

An Alitalia pilot reported what he thought to be a drone flying in the air near JFK and near his plane.

“We saw a drone, a drone aircraft,” said pilot Sergio Blaizon. FBI officials said the unmanned aircraft came within 200 feet of the plane.

Later in the recording, air traffic controllers could be heard notifying other pilots in the air know of the sighting.

Drone near JFK

“We saw a drone, a drone aircraft,” pilot Sergio Blaizon radioed into air traffic control at Kennedy Airport.

Law enforcement officials said it happened on Monday around 1:15 p.m.The pilot of Alitalia Flight 608 spotted a small unmanned aircraft while on approach to JFK. The flight was about three miles from runway 31R.

“(I saw) a drone, a drone aircraft,” said pilot Sergio Blazon.
In the air traffic control recordings controllers  warned  other pilots, “”There’s a report of a drone aircraft, 1500 feet use caution.”

Law enforcement officials described the mystery craft as black and no more than three feet wide with four propellers.

The FBI has launched an investigation. The Joint Terror Task Force is also investigating.

PIX11 spoke with  Martin Feely, supervisory special agent for the FBI, who said the bureau is taking this incident very seriously. Nothing has been ruled out.

Martin Feely, a supervisory special agent, said this incident was very unusual and they didn’t have any explanation for it.

“We’re concerned that in the future the public could be at risk for these kinds of incidents so we’re asking for the public’s assistance,” said Feely.  “We know its the kind of thing that could be a threat to an aircraft in the future.”

Aviation expert Dan Rose said this could have had catastrophic consequences.

“Any time you have an object in the air that close to where planes are taking off, it’s an extreme danger..potentially having a mid-air collision,” said Rose.

News of the drone sighting left passengers at the airport on edge Tuesday.  “My goodness that is something to be frightened of,” said Diana Morell.  “I’d be praying.”

Drones have become common for recreational use and for law enforcement intelligence gathering.

“More likely is that someone is putting up a remotely controlled aircraft model that some enthusiasts in the area too close to the airport,” said aviation expert Dan Rose.

What this was remains a mystery, and the FBI is asking anyone with information to come forward.

“We don’t consider it necessarily an act of terrorism, but its being investigated by agents and investigators from the Joint Terrorism Task Force just because they are physically located at JFK,” said Feely.

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 212-384-1000. Tipsters may remain anonymous.