17 December 2000

Passenger jets in two more warplane scares

By Chris Hastings and David Bamber

Urgent investigations have been launched after three military aircraft came within yards of hitting passenger jets during a single week last month.

A fortnight ago The Telegraph revealed that a Britannia Airways Boeing 757 from Birmingham airport carrying 234 passengers and crew came within milliseconds of colliding with a US Air Force F15 over Northamptonshire. Now it has been revealed that two other military jets were involved in near-misses with passenger planes during the same week.

On November 17, a Fokker 50 jet, believed to be a KLM aircraft with up to 60 people on board, flying from Humberside airport to Amsterdam, reported a near-miss with a military jet 37 miles east of Hull. The RAF often carries out training exercises along this part of the East coast. Six days later, another passenger aircraft was involved in a near-miss with a military aircraft 20 miles south-east of the Isle of Man airport.

Both incidents have been reported to the Civil Aviation Authority and reports are being compiled by the Aircraft Proximity organisation, which is jointly funded by the CAA and the Ministry of Defence. Last night a spokesman for the CAA refused to give any further details of the incidents.

Gwyneth Dunwoody, chairman of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, said: "I can't speak about individual incidents but the delays in opening the new air traffic control centre and problems with the system do give me great cause for concern. I know pilots have expressed worries about the air traffic control system over the past few weeks."

A spokesman for Manx airport said: "I can confirm the CAA is investigating a proximity incident involving a Manx airline advanced turbo-prop plane and another aircraft. I understand the other plane may have been a Hawk aircraft operated by British Aerospace. We can't say any more until the inquiry has been completed."