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FBI wants help in finding UAV operator near Kennedy International

The FBI is asking for the public’s help in finding the operator of a small, unmanned aircraft that flew very close to an Italian passenger jet on its approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport on March 4.

The incident occurred at about 1:15 p.m. that day, when the FBI said the pilot of Alitalia Flight 608 spotted a small, unmanned aircraft while on approach to the busy airport. The Alitalia flight was roughly three miles from runway 31R when the incident occurred at an altitude of approximately 1,750 feet. The unmanned aircraft came within 200 feet of the Alitalia plane, said the FBI.

The unmanned aircraft was described as black in color and no more than three feet wide, with four propellers. According to local press reports, the pilot of the aircraft reportedly told investigators that he had seen a black drone "about a meter square, with helicopter rotors on the corners” on his approach to Kennedy.

Local press reports have quoted residents saying that an area a few miles from the airport is frequently used by remote-control model aircraft hobbyists to fly their planes.

“The FBI is asking anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact us,” said FBI special agent in charge John Giacalone. “Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew.” The agency asked anyone with information to call the FBI at 212-384-1000. Tipsters could remain anonymous, it said.

FBI agents also told local news media that the episode was similar to lasing incidents that have plagued commercial aircraft pilots.


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