Drone has close call with Delta jet near Memphis airport

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a close call between a commercial jet and a drone.

It happened around 7:50 p.m. August 7 a mile south of Memphis International Airport. The pilot of a Delta MD-88 reported a "near miss" while departing Memphis International.

While no emergency was declared, the incident underscores the concern over when and where drones can safely fly.

"Most of the quadcopters are fairly easy to fly...flying them well is a different story."

Emmo Hein, owner of Mid-South Hobbies and Games, sells a variety of unmanned aircraft, or "quadcopters." He believes most people use common sense when flying them.

"Don't fly over crowds. Don't go anywhere near where you might hurt people," said Hein.

He was concerned to hear about the drone coming so close to the departing plane.

"You don't want to suck something like one of these 10-pound drones up into an aircraft engine or crack a glass," Hein said.

According to MIA spokesperson Glen Thomas, the pilot of Delta flight 2067 radioed the drone was flying at approximately 1,700 feet, one mile south of the airport.

Hein says the crew had good reason to be alarmed.

"These guys are pretty skittish about that kind of thing. I don't blame them. They don't like to fly into birds either. There's lots of debris up there that could do damage. And this is one thing that doesn't need to be up there," he said.

He says that's one reason the FAA doesn't want drones within five miles of an airport.

Higher-priced drones have features preventing them from just flying away from controllers, but Hein warns accidents do happen.

"There are times that just fails. So it is possible for them to get away from someone and that's something you have to be aware of."

The FAA would not provide further details about this Memphis incident but stated, nationally, the agency receives more than 100 unmanned aircraft sightings a month.

We reached out to Delta Air Lines for a comment and are waiting for their response.

You can learn more about the FAA's rules and regulations regarding unmanned aircraft by going to their website.

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