Drone on Mount beach halts flight

File Photo.

A drone flying over Mount Maunganui beach closed the Tauranga airport for 15 minutes on Wednesday morning.

Airways NZ spokeswoman Emma Lee says the drone was spotted by a pilot arriving into Tauranga from Wellington at 9.45am.

Emma says the airspace remained closed until 10am and police were called to investigate.

The plane was "held up in the air" and left circling the airport for 15 minutes because of the drone.

The number of incidents at air traffic control areas involving drones was increasing and there had been 120 "drone airspace incursions" recorded in the year to January, she says.

"These are events where a drone is flying without authorisation in controlled airspace and is close enough to an aircraft or airfield to be spotted by pilots or air traffic controllers."

An incident in November last year with a drone flying near Wellington Airport disrupted the flight plans of 10 aircrafts.

But Emma says not all drone incursions result in flight disruptions.

She says each incident was risk assessed and appropriate actions taken.

The drone's pilot remains at large.

A Police spokesman says they attended the area and spoke to people but "unfortunately no further leads were gained".

-Stuff.co.nz/Julie Iles


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