January 23, 2019

Chairman DeFazio, Rep. Larsen Respond to Reported Drone Incident at Newark Airport

Washington, DC- Today, Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and senior member of the committee Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA), responded to news that Newark Liberty International Airport was forced to halt all air traffic after two pilots reported seeing a drone flying nearby. 

"Thankfully, no one was injured yesterday, but let me be clear, this incident could have had a tragic ending. Irresponsible drone users have caused serious safety issues and have put thousands of lives in danger," DeFazio said. "At my request, the FAA has been working for years to evaluate the severity of airborne collisions between a drone and an aircraft. Initial findings showed that even a small drone can cause severe damage to an aircraft body—structural damage greater than a bird strike—yet we still do not know what happens if one were sucked into a jet engine. That is why I continue to urge the FAA to complete its testing. Unfortunately, the Trump Shutdown is impacting the FAA’s implementation of provisions enacted as part of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which will save lives and keep our skies safe. As Chairman, I intend to keep the pressure on the FAA to complete its work." DeFazio said.

“Unmanned aircraft systems are flourishing in the skies at a pace we did not imagine years ago. Inherent in the exponential growth of this technology and applications in the United States are the safety and security risks they can pose to the nation's most critical and sensitive assets and facilities, such as airports,” Larsen said. “As more users enter the U.S. airspace, the most important issue must be safe integration. Safety is, and must be, Congress’ number one priority when it comes to the use of drones.”

On Tuesday, January 22, two airline pilots flying into Newark reported seeing a drone flying at an altitude of about 3,500 feet. The reported sightings ultimately led to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issuing a ground stop for the airport. While the FAA has not confirmed the sighting was in fact a drone, the incident follows a series of near-misses and collisions between drones and manned aircraft in North America. In addition, yesterday's incident follows last month's reported drone sightings at Gatwick Airport in London that caused several days of disruption and affected the travel plans of thousands of travelers, as well as a second drone sighting earlier this month that temporarily suspended operations at Heathrow Airport in London.

Chairman DeFazio fought for three years to repeal the 2012 law, passed by the Republican majority, which prohibited FAA regulation of recreational drones in U.S. airspace. His proposal was adopted in last year's FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, finally restoring the FAA's authority to establish safety-enhancing requirements, applicable to all UAS operators and needed to ensure the safety and security of U.S. airspace. This includes standards for remotely identifying and tracking drone operators in the National Airspace System, which will be critical to protecting our Nation's airports and finding and stopping reckless users.