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Pilot spots drone flying too close to Southwest jet at LAX

Pilot spots drone flying too close to Southwest jet at LAX
A drone with a camera is used to shoot scenes for a television show in Santa Clarita in September. The L.A. City Council approved an ordinance Wednesday that criminalizes violating FAA drone regulations. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

A drone was spotted flying close to a Southwest Airlines plane at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday, just hours after the L.A. City Council approved stiffer penalties for flying the devices.

A pilot flying a Boeing 737 was preparing to land at the airport about 4:40 p.m. when he saw a drone to his left, about 1,500 feet in the air, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said. Air traffic controllers immediately notified the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

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The sighting came hours after the council unanimously voted to approve an ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor to violate civilian drone regulations. The new law takes effect about 40 days after Mayor Eric Garcetti signs it.

Flying a drone more than 500 feet above the ground, within five miles of an airport without permission or within 25 feet of another person is a violation punishable by up to $1,000 in fines and six months in jail.

The city ordinance now mirrors FAA regulations for civilian drones.

The city attorney's office charged a man last month with obstructing police after he flew a drone close to an LAPD helicopter.

In August 2014, a Canadian jetliner spotted a personal drone about 10 miles east of LAX at 4,000 feet — an altitude outside Federal Aviation Administration guidelines for hobbyists with drones and within the airport's air space.

That same month, employees on the LAPD's 10th floor said they saw a drone hovering outside their window.

Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA.

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