Pilot en route to JFK airport reports mysterious object

Updated 7:55 p.m. ET

NEW YORK A mystery in the sky over New York City on Monday got one commercial airline pilot's attention.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a report from the pilot who claimed he saw an unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft while on his final approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport, WCBS in New York reports.

The FBI has also stepped in and is seeking public assistance "in identifying, locating unmanned aircraft and operator" from the Monday afternoon incident.

In a press release, the FBI states the "Alitalia flight was roughly three miles from runway 31R when the incident occurred at an altitude of approximately 1,750 feet. The unmanned aircraft came within two hundred feet of the Alitalia plane."

"The FBI is asking anyone with information about the unmanned aircraft or the operator to contact us," said Special Agent in Charge John Giacalone. "Our paramount concern is the safety of aircraft passengers and crew."

Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 212-384-1000. Tipsters may remain anonymous.

The pilot, who was at the controls of Alitalia Flight AZA 60, a Boeing 777, spotted what may have been a drone about four to five miles southeast of the airport while on final approach at about 1:15 p.m.

The pilot is heard telling air traffic controllers on radio calls recorded by the website LiveATC.net, "We saw a drone, a drone aircraft."

But one man who drives an airport shuttle van told CBS Radio he often sees kids flying model aircrafts in the area.

"I see it many times," he said. "Sometimes, I see them flying so high."

The Alitalia flight was not forced to take evasive action and landed safely minutes later, officials said.

NYCAviation.com reported that country club, the Woodmere Club, is beneath the flight path.

While the exact nature of the aircraft seen near JFK is unclear, the possibility of increased domestic drone use has been in the news recently. The FAA has already granted several hundred permits to universities, police departments and other government agencies to use small, low-flying drones.

Some remote-controlled planes flown by hobbyists are wider than 3 feet. Under FAA rules, model planes are restricted to altitudes of 400 feet or less.

While the FAA doesn't regulate toy remote controlled planes, it may soon allow vast civilian use of more powerful drone aircraft. The government agency which regulates the skies proposed six test sites around the country last month for drones, perhaps clearing the way for wider use.

Privacy advocates worry that a proliferation of drones will lead to a "surveillance society" in which the movements of Americans are routinely monitored, tracked, recorded and scrutinized by authorities.

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