Evasive action was taken during a Porter airlines flight to avoid a flying object, which may have been a drone, as the plane approached Toronto’s downtown airport on Monday morning.
Of the 54 passengers on board, none were injured during the incident. It is currently being investigated by the Transportation Safety Board (TSB).
The TSB said the “risk of mid-air collision” happened before 7:30 a.m. ET and involved flight POE204 travelling from Ottawa to Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport.
Porter released information stating that the event happened over Lake Ontario near Pickering, Ont. — about 55 kilometres east of Toronto — as the de Havilland Dash 8-400 plane was flying at a height of about 9,000 feet. The statement said pilots noticed an object in the distance, which they originally thought was a balloon.
“As they approached the object, they realized it was very close to their flight path and decided to take appropriate evasive action,” Porter said in a statement released Monday afternoon.
“There was no contact between the aircraft and object.”
“After debriefing, there is potential that the object was a drone,” the statement says.
Two flight attendants who were clearing the plane’s cabin for landing sustained minor injuries. They were taken to hospital and released soon thereafter.
Kate Young, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport, said the government is aware of the incident, which she called serious.
“It’s imperative that we keep our skies safe and secure,” Young told reporters on Parliament Hill.
Existing rules already restrict the use of drones around airports and at higher altitudes to minimize the risk of a potential collision. But there are calls for Transport Canada to do more to raise public awareness.
“I don’t believe the word is getting out,” said Dan Adamus, Canada board president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International.
“That’s the problem. People just look up in the sky and they don’t understand it’s airspace that aircraft use,” he said in an interview.
He said a mid-air collision with a drone would likely be worse than hitting a bird and could easily disable a control surface, cause an engine failure or shatter the windscreen.
Adamus claims the pilots association wants Canada to follow the lead of the United States and require owners to register their UAVs with federal authorities, a formality that may encourage some to take more responsibility in how they fly their vehicles.
The airline says it’s working with the TSB on its investigation.