Yorkshire Air Ambulance seconds from ‘unthinkable disaster’ in near-miss with drone

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Photograph: Richard McDougall
12 Sep 2019 @ 12.44 pm
| News

The Yorkshire Air Ambulance came within seconds from disaster last night (11 September) after coming close to colliding with an illegal drone.

The ambulance was en route back to its Nostell Air Support Unit near Wakefield after from completing a mission when the near-miss took place.

The incident happened around 6.50pm as the helicopter was returning to base, flying at around 1,300ft

Chief pilot Steve Waudby said:

  • We cannot stress enough the seriousness of what happened last night to the crew of HM98.

    It was only due to the vigilance of our front seat paramedic spotting the drone, and the rapid reaction of our pilot that the crew avoided a direct collision.

    It is estimated that they missed the drone by less than three metres in the end. The consequences don’t bear thinking about if a direct strike had occurred.

    We’d be telling a very different story today if it had.

Library photo of a drone. Photograph: Jared Brashier / Unsplash
Whoever was operating the drone was doing so at an illegal height – the maximum height it should have been operating at was 120m or 400ft.

“This drone was flying over three times the height it should have been at. Whether the operator is aware or not, they have put the lives of our crew in extreme danger,” Steve said.

Chairman of the YAA Peter Sunderland said:

  • Firstly I would like to pay tribute to our pilot – his prompt and professional actions avoided the most unthinkable disaster.

    We are proud to have a team of highly skilled, ex-military Pilots as part of our team, and last night’s incident just goes to highlight how important these professional pilots are to the charity.

    The crew are obviously shaken from what happened and we will be supporting them in any way we can.

A CAA spokesperson said: “It is against the law to fly a drone above 400ft (120m) or close to airports without permission and anyone flouting the rules can face severe penalties including up to five years in prison.

“Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations. The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all airspace users safe.”

You can read the CAA’s Dronecode advice on how to fly your drone safely here.

Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) serves 5 million people across Yorkshire and carries out over 1,500 missions every year.