Flights halted, diverted after drone spotted at Piedmont Triad International Airport; FAA, FBI, police launch investigation

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — A drone suspended operations at Piedmont Triad International Airport Tuesday night.

The airport authority told FOX8 the low-flying aircraft was spotted over and around the airport.

PTI Executive Director Kevin Baker says this is the first time something like this has happened.

Not only does it disrupt operations but it also puts pilots and passengers in danger. Flying drones over the airport is a federal crime.

“One of these things running into an aircraft is not something that we want to have happen,” Baker said.

Damaging a wing, puncturing a window or shattering a propeller — all possibilities of what could happen if a drone gets too close to a plane.

“This creates a situation that’s very dangerous,” Baker said. “I really urge people to be careful with drones and to make sure that they get educated about the rules and the laws that are associated with flying.”

The drone circling and at one point hovering over an airport runway diverted one flight looking to land in Greensboro and grounded several others.

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said air traffic controllers switched runways to avoid coming into contact with the drone.

“Civil penalties for something like this could be huge because any person who was harmed and when I say harmed, I mean in the legal way, if they were impacted by this, they were delayed, if they’re an airline having to spend more money on fuel because they’re in a holding pattern for an hour, even if someone is shipping something on an airplane and that package arrives late, every single one of those individuals might have a claim against this individual,” Baker said.

The drone disappeared around 11:30 Tuesday night two and a half hours after it was first spotted. The drone pilot has not been located. The FBI is now taking over the investigation along with airport police, TSA and the FAA.

It’s illegal to fly a drone near or over an airport because they’re difficult for pilots to see. People caught doing it can face fines and time in jail. Anyone with information on the drone can call the FBI at 704-672-6100.

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