Life Flight pilot recalls close call with drone; authorities remind Utahns to follow FAA rules

SALT LAKE CITY – Just 200 feet is all that separated a drone and a Life Flight helicopter transporting a patient.

“We were very surprised because we thought it was an aircraft,” said veteran helicopter pilot Jerry Bastian of Intermountain Life Flight. “It wasn’t until it was sitting on my right side, probably 2 o’clock, 200 feet above me that we discovered it was a drone.”

Making it even more difficult, Bastian says it happened at night. To be safe, he altered his flight path to steer clear of the drone.

“We hit birds every once in a while, and a bird can come through a cockpit," he said. "It can break a windshield. It can come in and affect the pilot. Drones are harder than birds. Drones are bigger than birds.”

“It’s becoming a more prevalent problem,” said airport operation manager Dave Teggins. “I think a lot of people are oblivious to the rules.”

The Federal Aviation Administration says the number of drone to aircraft encounters has escalated significantly over the years. A spokesperson for the FAA says they see the most incidents during the summer when kids are out of school and flying drones without proper instructions.

The basic rules to flying include keeping a distance of at least 5 miles from airport property, not flying at night, and not flying above 400 feet in altitude. For a more detailed look you can follow the links below.

Maps

Drone registration

Additional Information