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Long Island Drone Sighting Near JFK Probed
A small drone nearly collided with a jetliner over southwestern Nassau County while the jet was approaching JFK airport on Monday afternoon, according to federal agencies investigating the incident.
The pilot of Alitalia Flight No. 608 from Rome was on approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport on the Queens-Nassau border when he spotted the unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft at about 1:15 p.m. Monday, according to the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The FBI is asking anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact us,” said John Giacalone, the FBI’s Special Agent in Charge of the New York Counterterrorism Division. “Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew.”
The flight was making its final approach to JFK runway 31R when the unmanned aircraft came within 200 feet of the Alitalia plane at an altitude of about 1,750 feet. The drone was described as black and three-feet wide with four propellers.
Several news outlets reported that the incident occurred west of JFK, over Brooklyn, but an FAA spokesperson confirmed reports that the near collision occurred roughly three miles southeast of JFK, which includes an area anywhere from Atlantic Beach to somewhere in the Five Towns.
A Nassau County police spokeswoman said there were no other reports of drone sightings Monday.
“The pilot did not take evasive action,” the FAA said in a statement. “The flight landed safely.”
The incident comes amid renewed controversy over the Obama administration’s use of predator drones to kill terrorists overseas, including American citizens such as Westbury-native Samir Khan, the al-Qaeda propagandist killed in U.S. airstrikes alongside militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2011.
But, the drone reportedly spotted over LI appears to be smaller than the military aircraft used in such attacks.
The FBI asks anyone with information that can identify and locate the aircraft and its operator to call investigators at 212-384-1000. Tipsters may remain anonymous.