Medical helicopter has near miss on its way to UVA Medical Center

A medical helicopter with PHI
A medical helicopter with PHI(WVIR)
Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 1:30 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A medical helicopter bringing a patient to the University of Virginia Medical Center encountered a drone well above the legal flying limit late Tuesday, November 23.

“We had our night crew flying into the helipad at UVA, and about a mile to a mile-and-a-half the pilot reported that he thought he saw what was an aircraft distant,” PHI helicopter pilot Don Barnett said.

The Lynchburg-based pilot quickly realized it was not an aircraft, and it suddenly was right in front of him.

Barnett says quick thinking and training came into action: “In order to avoid the collision, he had to make a very evasive maneuver, rolling the aircraft away from the drone,” he said.

This isn’t a unique danger, and drones aren’t the only risk: Lasers also put the lives of these pilots in danger.

“Flying here in Lynchburg, I’ve been hit twice by lasers. The second time I was hit, the ophthalmologist said I had a corneal abrasion and it felt like sand in your eye for about eight weeks,” Barnett said.

The FAA says if you’re flying a drone for enjoyment, it has be kept in sight and at-or-below 400 feet depending on the airspace type, and it cannot interfere with any manned aircrafts.

“We’re providing a public service. This is not just a job for most of us, this is our calling, and we would just ask that the public exercise good judgment. Be aware of aircrafts that are there out there. I mean, it’s not just the regulations, but it’s common sense,” Barnett said.

Despite the scare, the helicopter was able to land at UVA Medical Center safely.

Barnett asks if you are considering getting your child a drone for the holidays to make sure they know the FAA rules.

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