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Date of Issue: April 01, 2009

Coast Guard pilots take break on beach

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Spring training
A Coast Guard training exercise turned into a repair job March 25, when a crew landed its helicopter on the beach in Anna Maria after getting a warning of a rotor problem. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff
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A Coast Guard helicopter takes off from the beach in Anna Maria.

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter crew turned up sand and stirred interest when it made an emergency landing on an Anna Maria beach March 25.

The crew aboard an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was training over the Gulf of Mexico when it received an alert to a problem with the rotor.

The pilot landed the big helicopter — bold in black, white and orange — on the beach near the 700 block of North Shore Drive in Anna Maria.

The crew called for a second helicopter and crew to bring in repair parts, and, while crew members waited, they entertained curious beachgoers wanting to peek inside the machine.

The crew members joked that they wished they had packed shorts.

At about 5 p.m., a second HH-60 touched down on the beach, swirling sand and drawing an even larger crowd, including some out-of-breath diners from the nearby Sandbar Restaurant.

“I was disappointed in seeing no dolphins until this,” said vacationer Amanda Hollingsworth of Pittsburgh. “My kids are going crazy.”

“Like a mini-air show,” said Henry Stuart of Detroit.

The Coast Guard team had repaired the helicopter by sunset.

The crews were with the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station on the north side of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

The station is the largest and busiest air station in the Coast Guard, covering the region, as well the Caribbean basin and the Bahamas.

The station’s main operations involve search and rescue, as well as Operations Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, an anti-smuggling operation in partnership with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.