Aviation Near Miss
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A commuter plane had to take evasive action after a Suffolk-based US fighter jet came within 800m of colliding with it, a report revealed yesterday.
The pilots of the KLM UK Fokker 50, which was carrying 37 passengers, sent it into a dive and then into a climb to avoid the US Air Force F15E Eagle from RAF Lakenheath. The incident happened as the aircraft, from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, was coming in to land at Teesside Airport on August 13, 2001.
The two US crewmen on the F15 had been on a training exercise and were heading south to return to Lakenheath.
An Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) report said an air traffic controller warned the Fokker when it was approaching Teesside that a fast-moving aircraft was five miles away and closing. The turboprop plane's collision warning system sounded, prompting the 35-year-old captain to scan the horizon, where he spotted the oncoming jet.
An alert saying "Descend, descend, descend" then sounded, and the co-pilot sent it into a dive but seconds later, the warning system sounded again, telling the crew to climb immediately. As the F15 passed below, the captain's radar display showed it as being just 300ft below the Fokker. The captain then saw the plane moving away to his left.
After the incident, which happened 35 nautical miles from Teesside, the captain asked a cabin attendant to check that no one had been injured. The report said passengers had been subjected to a force of 2G by the avoiding manoeuvre, but fortunately the 'Fasten seat belts' sign had been on at the time.
The rear seat crewman of the F15, which recorded the incident with an on-board video camera, said he had seen the Fokker and estimated it was about 400ft above and would pass behind their aircraft. A report by the safety and quality section of the Manchester Air Traffic Control and Airport found that the controller managing the situation had acted correctly by not giving the Fokker any instructions, as they might have aggravated the situation.
The AAIB report found that at their closest point, the two aircraft were 800m apart horizontally and 1500ft apart vertically. Had evasive action not been taken, it is believed the vertical separation of the two aircraft tracks would have been less than 100ft and the lateral separation less than 500m.
There had been a previous near-miss in the same area involving a RAF Tornado and a Shorts SD-360 passenger plane in March 2000, the report added. As a result, a number of recommendations were put into force by the Civil Aviation Authority.
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