Costly Drone Encounter

An Abbotsford, B.C. flight school may have the dubious distinction of being the first to suffer serious aircraft damage from a midair collision with a drone. A Chinook Helicopters Cessna 172 (the school does both fixed wing and rotary training) needed about $5,000 in repairs and was out of service for almost a week after it hit a “man-made object” while the student pilot and instructor were setting up to land at Chilliwack Airport. The aircraft was about 500 feet AGL when the collision occurred. Chinook owner Cathy Press said she’s not certain what the aircraft hit because no pieces of it were found but it “left blue bits on the wing.” She said the pilots never saw the object but heard the impact and aborted their landing.

They returned to Abbotsford and maintenance staff assessed the damage. Press said the object destroyed the left wing tip fairing, dented the skin and damaged a wing rib seriously enough that it had to be replaced. “By the time it’s painted and all finished I wouldn’t be surprised if [the bill] is $5,000,” she said. She’ll have to pay that out of pocket because the school’s insurance deductible is higher than that. Still, the owner is thankful the mishap wasn’t worse. “At least it didn’t go through the windshield.”