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Drone Scare For LAX-Bound Flight Reignites Safety Debate

LOS ANGELES ( — Drone-safety debates have inflamed after a pilot reported having a close encounter with a remote-controlled device at 4,000 feet while navigating a Southwest Airlines flight to LAX.

The plane was making its final descent into the Los Angeles airport Sunday when the pilot reported the close call, according to audio obtained by NBC News:

          Pilot: "Hey, there was just one of those radio-controlled helicopter things that went right over the top of us at 4,000."

          Controller: "Over the top of you at 4,000. Roger that."

          Pilot: "One of those remotely piloted deals."

          Controller: "Gotcha, a drone."

          Pilot: "Yep, little bitty one ... was red in color."

The plane landed safely.

But retired United pilot Cpt. Ross Aimer says drones are a growing concern to pilots.

"Everybody's worried that it may be something worse next time," Aimer said. "As these drones start getting bigger and more complicated and more in numbers, we are gonna have huge problems - unless we come up with a real solution."

Aimer says commercial pilots are talking about the recent near-collisions with drones and planes from Dallas to Chicago, all flying well above the FAA allowance of 400 feet.

"Although these engines could take a lot of punishment, as [we've seen] with previous bird ingestions, it could possibly damage an engine or two and cause, perhaps, an accident," Aimer said.

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines would only tell CBS2/KCAL9 the company is investigating.

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