12 July 2002

Warning issued to RAF over mid-air crash risk

By Barrie Clement, Transport Editor

A senior air safety official called yesterday for new collision warning systems to be fitted on military aircraft, because near-misses involving military planes have reached an 11-year high.

Latest figures show the number of military incidents where there was a high risk of collision rose from 16 in 2000 to 27 in 2001 – the highest since records began in 1990. However the number of dangerous incidents in civil aviation fell to the lowest level recorded, said Gordon McRobbie, director of the UK Airprox Board.

The total of near-misses for 2001 was 195, three fewer than the previous record low in 2000.

Mr McRobbie said the general introduction of the TCAS system for warning airliners of imminent collision had helped to bring the figures down. He welcomed the fact the devices will be compulsory in Europe on even the smallest airliners by next year, but called for the introduction of better electronics on military planes.

He acknowledged that TCAS was limited in its usefulness because it worked by ordering one plane to descend to avoid a crash and the other to climb or stay at the same height. Because military planes often operated far nearer the ground than airliners such a device
would not be appropriate.

Mr McRobbie welcomed the fact that there was an attempt to develop a more sophisticated system for the RAF and its low-level aircraft.