Investigation Underway After Drone Activity Leads To Ground Stop At Newark Airport

January 22, 2019 - 6:05 pm

NEWARK, N.J. (WCBS 880) — The Port Authority is investigating drone sightings that halted takeoffs and landings at Newark Airport for about 90 minutes Tuesday night.

The Federal Aviation Administration originally stopped all arrivals into the airport just after 5 p.m. when two pilots coming in for a landing at Newark Airport reported drone activity 3,500 feet in the air near Teterboro Airport. Drones are supposed to stay below 400 feet and far from other aircraft and airports.

Audio coming from revealed one pilot saying the drone was no farther than 30 feet from the wing of the aircraft.

"Yes sir, object and it definitely looks like a drone. We just passed it about 3,600 feet," the pilot is heard saying.

Because of this, all inbound flights were temporarily diverted and outbound flights were being temporarily held as police worked to remove the drones.

The ground stop ended just after 6 p.m. with arriving flights being allowed to enter the airport. However, departures were still being delayed due to congestion.

Newark Airport announced that ground stops had also been put in place at other airports departing for Newark "until a backlog of arrivals" could be cleared.

Operations returned to normally shortly after 7 p.m., the airport said in a statement adding that it would be working with the FAA and all federal law enforcement authorities as they worked to investigate the incident.

Passengers aboard inbound flights took to Twitter to first report the issues, saying their planes were forced to circle. One user suggested creating technology that could remotely shutdown a drone in these types of situations.

As they arrived in New Jersey, they told WCBS 880's Steve Burns about their frustrations.

“We were delayed. The pilot said that we're going to be on hold in the air for, I’d say we were on hold for about forty minutes doing circle-eights,” said one passenger.

Passengers were frustrated about the lack of communication from Newark Airport.

“Just let us know that there’s going to be a delay and how much we can do about it,” one man said.

This was not the first time an airport was halted due to drones. In fact, a number of similar stoppages occurred at airports in the UK, when drone sightings at London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports brought travel to a standstill.