Pilot Approaching JFK Spots Possible Unmanned Aircraft: FAA

The FAA says it's investigating a report of a small, possibly unmanned aircraft near Kennedy Airport.

A pilot of an international airline was on the final approach to Runway 31 at about 1:15 p.m. when he spotted the unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft hovering at about 1,500 feet, according to the FAA.

The pilot reported seeing the aircraft about four to five miles southeast of the airport, which would put it roughly in the area of Atlantic Beach in Nassau County. 

In an air traffic control recording provided by LiveATC.net, the pilot is heard telling the controller, "We saw a drone, a drone aircraft."

The pilot continued on his path and landed safely. No other pilots reported seeing the aircraft. 

Passengers at Kennedy Airport were startled to hear of an unknown object possibly flying so close to planes landing and taking off at one of the world's busiest airports. 

"It makes me very nervous. Very nervous," said Manuel Infante of Rockville Centre. "A lot of cause for concern."

It's still not clear if the object was a drone, though a drone could pose a threat despite its small size. 

"Even the smallest drone is a substantial weight, and it could easily do damage like ripping off a part of a wing or impacting a cockpit area," said Dan Rose, an aviation expert and attorney specializing in aviation litigation. 

Drones are growing in popularity with government agencies and the public. The FAA is preparing a plan to regulate their widespread commercial use by 2015, though Rose wants to see more safety measures along with the increased use.

"All the indications so far is that we're seeing a lot more close calls and near-misses, and not more on the technology of how to avoid these near-misses," said Rose. 

The FAA is investigating. 

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