Drone nearly hits Coast Guard helicopter over Port Angeles

MH-65 Dolphin helicopter. (Coast Guard file photo)

PORT ANGELES, Wash., -- A drone came within 50 feet of a Coast Guard helicopter here, and the crew had to maneuver to avoid a collision, the Coast Guard says.

The incident occurred Saturday near Fairchild International Airport in Port Angeles.

An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Port Angeles was at 300 feet, conducting low-level training near the airport.

The crew had to maneuver to avoid hitting what it thought was a bird but turned out to be a drone.

The Coast Guard notes that drone operators must notify airports or air traffic control before flying within five miles of an airport. Drones must yield right of way to aircraft and be in a line of site at all times,

The Coast Guard says the manager at the Port Angeles airport confirmed that the drone wasn't authorized and did not request to fly within five miles of the airport.

“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.”

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