RAF aircraft came within 500ft of civilian aircraft while flying over Mach Loop

An RAF jet and a civilian aircraft approached within 500ft of each other over Corris Uchaf in Gwynedd. This happened on September 21, 2021, according to a report from the UK Airprox Board.

According to the report, the Hawk T2 jet passed under a PA28 aircraft, which was about 500 to 800 feet above, going in the opposite direction, in the Mach Loop area. The pilot of the Hawk rated the risk of collision as medium, but the pilot of the PA28, a former RAF pilot and current airline pilot, rated the risk as low.

An investigation revealed that there were communication difficulties and problems finding one’s bearings until very late due to the fact that they were in an “area of ​​very high ground which can block VHF, TCAS/ ADS and visual observations for aircraft operating at low altitude”.

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In assessing the effectiveness of the security measures associated with the incident, the office concluded that the key factors were:

  • The tactical planning and execution was deemed partially effective because the PA28 pilot elected to transit along a known area of ​​high intensity, fast-reacting traffic at an altitude such that electronic visibility and communication were compromised by heights.
  • Situational awareness of the conflicting aircraft and action was deemed ineffective as neither pilot was aware of the proximity of the other aircraft until it was sighted.
  • The operation and compliance of the electronic warning system was found to be ineffective as the Hawk TCAS (traffic alert and collision avoidance system) warning only occurred at a late stage due to masking ground.

The report concluded: “Even though the Hawk pilot saw the PA28 at a very late stage and was undoubtedly surprised by its presence, the risk of collision was low due to the existing vertical separation.”

He added: “Members reiterated that Class G [uncontrolled] airspace is available to all users, but questioned the wisdom of choosing to fly a general aviation aircraft along a military flow arrow on a weekday, and at low altitude, at low altitudes. leisure purposes.

“The board felt that had the PA28 pilot considered his plan further, he might have chosen to stay away from the flow arrow. [routes used by military jets]either laterally or vertically.”

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The board added: “In terms of risk, it was evident that although the pilot of the PA28 reported a visual sighting from a distance of two nautical miles, the pilot of the Hawk only saw the PA28 at approximately CPA. [closest point of approach]indeed a non-observation.

“Some members felt that the closing speed was such that safety had been compromised, but after further discussion it was decided that the vertical separation at the CPA, while far from desirable, was such that the collision had been avoided; the pilot of the PA28 was able to assess the vector rapprochement and decided that no action was necessary.”

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