Did water rocket threaten Brum airport Airbus?

Mystery 'fizzy drink bottles' at 1,500ft

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) last week called for action to control the use of drones, citing several examples from the the latest UK Airprox Board report (PDF) of UAVs menacing airliners.

The report contains details of seven such incidents, four of which fell into the most serious category A, "where a serious risk of collision existed". In among the drone dramas, however, is a category B incident (PDF) involving an Airbus A321 departing Birmingham airport 18 August last year and "an unidentified object, described as rocket shaped and the size of 2 x 2l fizzy drink bottles", which passed close to the aircraft at an altitude of 1,500ft (approx 450m).

A local rocketry club said it wasn't operating on the day in question, and in any case, a probe into the matter was was "unable to ascertain the release source of the reported 'rocket', or indeed whether the reported object was a rocket at all".

Basic water rockets are commonly put together from plastic drinks bottles, and achieve lift by using compressed gas - usually air - to force water through a nozzle, ie, a hole in the bottle's cap.

More advanced models have been known to reach impressive altitudes, and the current world record, set last year by a University of Cape Town team and its Ascension III, stands at 825m (a tad over 2,700ft).


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