A SEA KING helicopter was involved in a very close call as it was returning to RAF Lossiemouth during an exercise last year, according to a report by the UK Airprox Board.
The Board, who are responsible for investigating near-miss incidents in UK Airspace, has published their findings over the incident that happened in October last year during a NATO ‘Joint Warrior’ exercise.
The Sea King was returning to Moray after taking part in the exercise when its pilot spotted two Hawk T1’s approaching at high speed. One of the jets subsequently flew just 200ft below the Sea King while the other around 500ft above it.
Evidence was heard that during Joint Warrior airspace was divided into two areas that the Hawks had been cleared to fly in – however, they had been cleared for the one area but were flying in the other.
The report noted: “The board was briefed by operations, who explained that the exercise was split into north and south areas, with Eagle providing a service for the south and Falcon providing a service for the north area.
“Eagle cleared the Hawks but was not aware that they were operating in the north area or that the Sea King was transiting back to its operating base after refuelling at Stornoway.
“Whilst Eagle was permitted to clear the Hawks below the Rotary Wing Co-ordination Level if the area was clear, he was looking at the south area, did not have sufficient information to do so in the north area and was not aware of the Hawks’ location.”
The Board noted that while there were important issues of exercise airspace design and coordination to be addressed the pilots had been aware of and had seen each other at sufficient range to allow normal safety standards to be met.
Joint Warrior takes place twice a year and is a busy time for Scotland’s only remaining operational air base, with the next exercise taking place from April 11 to 23.