Pilot screams ‘watch out’ to colleague after 20 party balloons pass just feet above plane shortly after take-off

Originally published in The Daily Mirror.

Twenty party balloons which floated into the sky above London City Airport nearly downed a private jet.

The pilot of the Cessna 560 had to shout “Watch out!” to the others on board as he steered the plane just metres around the balloons.

The business flight had just taken off from the city-centre airport when a bunch of 20 black and yellow balloons up to three metres across drifted dangerously close.

The pilot who spotted the potentially deadly obstacle was forced to turn off the auto-pilot and manoeuvre the aeroplane away, during the incident in October.

The balloons ended up passing by just two metres above the plane, which was flying at 2,300 feet, and ten metres to its left.

The terrifying incident was reported at the latest meeting of the UK Airprox Board (UKAB), which looks at near-misses in Britain’s skies.

The UKAB concluded the balloons had created a “definite” risk of collision and that “providence” had been what had stopped a collision happening.

It was one of 15 near misses involving aircraft which were discussed at the UKAB’s latest monthly meeting.

Also in October, the crew of a passenger jet coming in to land at Heathrow reported to UKAB that someone had flown a drone into their plane.

The three or four-engine white drone came with five feet of the co-pilot’s window and then probably crashed into the plane. Luckily, when the crew checked the aircraft over after landing they found the collision had not caused any damage.

Similarly to the balloon near-miss, the UKAB concluded that “providence had played a major part in the incident and/or a definite risk of collision had existed”.

Last year, the government said it would force drone owners to register and go on safety courses after a worrying rise in near-misses with planes.

Some have called for drone makers to programme in the GPS co-ordinates of no-fly zones, such as airports or prisons, which would stop troublemakers from being able to pilot their drones into dangerous areas.