Drone comes close to hitting helicopter, Coast Guard says

PORT ANGELES — A Coast Guard aircrew came within 50 feet of hitting a drone in Port Angeles on Saturday, the Coast Guard said.

The aircrew was 300 feet in the air conducting training when they had a near-miss collision with a recreational drone near Fairchild International Airport, according to the Coast Guard.

The MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Air Station Port Angeles was conducting low-level training near the airport when the crew maneuvered to miss what they thought was a bird.

The object ended up being a drone and the aircrew estimated the near miss at only 50 feet.

“Drone operators who are unaware or complacent of existing FAA regulations pose a significant safety threat to aircrews and risk serious damage to the aircraft,” said Lt. Cmdr. Brent Schmadeke, operations officer at Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles.

“With the increasing popularity of commercial model aircraft, we strongly encourage operators to familiarize themselves with operating standards set forth by the FAA.”

A Coast Guard spokesperson said she was unaware of if the Coast Guard had contacted the drone’s operator.

Under federal law, drone operators must provide advanced notification to airports or airport traffic control to fly drones within five miles of an airport.

Operators must yield right of way to manned aircraft and keep their drones in line of site at all times.

It was confirmed by the Fairchild International Airport manager that this drone had not been authorized or requested by the operator to fly within the five-mile radius, as is required by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the Coast Guard.

There are different FAA drone regulations between commercial use and recreational use, but all owners must be aware of those regulations before operating their drones, the Coast Guard said.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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