The Yorkshire Air Ambulance came within feet of a catastrophe after nearly colliding with a drone.
The helicopter had been returning to its Nostell base last night at around 6.50pm and was flying at around 1,300 ft when it almost hit the object.
Chief pilot Steve Waudby said: “We cannot stress enough the seriousness of what happened last night to the crew.
"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 bare thinking about if a direct strike had occurred. We’d be telling a very different story today if it had.”
“The most ironic thing about all of this is that we spent most of yesterday working with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over at Nostell to help them create a new ‘Drone Awareness’ short film to help highlight the dangers and issues of operating drones, and to make users more aware of aircraft operators like us and the police.”
He added that whoever was operating the drone was doing so at an illegal height, with 120m or 400ft being the maximum altitude.
Mr Waudby continued: "Whether the operator is aware or not, they have put the lives of our crew in extreme danger.
"I would appeal to the operator to please come forward and identify themselves – we have a very clear description of what the drone looked like and it was very, very distinctive.
"The police have been made aware, as well as the CAA and the AAIB have also been notified. Again, I cannot stress the seriousness of what has happened.”
Peter Sunderland, Chairman of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance added: “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.
"Also to the two paramedics and doctor who were on board - all of their intense training over the years came to fruition last night and I am proud of how they handled this incident. The crew are obviously shaken from what happened and we will be supporting them in any way we can.”
A Civil Aviation Authority (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. The CAA’s Dronecode provides advice on how to fly your drone safely and follow the rules. You can access it at www.dronesafe.uk ”
Yorkshire Air Ambulance carries out over 1,500 missions every year.
The charity operates two, state-of-the-art Airbus H145 helicopters and needs to raise £12,000 every day to keep saving lives.