Jim Williams, head of the unmanned-aircraft office at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), mentioned the incident publicly during a drone conference in San Francisco on Thursday, according to the Journal. Williams said the pilot of the plane told officials that on March 22 he came very close to a "small remotely piloted aircraft" around 2,300 feet above the ground near Tallahassee Regional Airport in Florida.
"The airline pilot said that he thought the [drone] was so close to his jet that he was sure he had collided with it," Williams said, according to the Journal.
Williams said an inspection of the plane found no damage, but that the "the risk for a small [drone] to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real."
The Journal reported that the flight in question was US Airways Flight 4650, out of Charlotte, N.C., and was operated by a US Airways subsidiary. US Airways, in turn, is part of American Airlines. The pilot of the 50-seat jet described the drone to officials "as a camouflaged F-4 fixed-wing aircraft that was quite small."
Gretchen West, executive vice president for the drone trade group Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, told the Journal that the incident showed the need for the FAA to "come up with the rules to create a safe environment."