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Airprox Board Reports

PUBLISHED: 12:40 23 June 2011 | UPDATED: 14:06 10 October 2012

A student microlight pilot whose throttle froze did not know he had climbed to 11,000 feet and strayed into controlled airspace and into the path of a passenger carrying jet.

A student microlight pilot whose throttle froze did not know he had climbed to 11,000 feet and strayed into controlled airspace and into the path of a passenger carrying jet.

Reporting on the incident, the independent UK Airprox Board (UKAB) says that the microlight passed less than 100 feet from a Boeing 767 which had just left Manchester. The Board calls the microlight pilot's apparent unawareness of his height 'incomprehensible', and was equally 'mystified' by his failure so see the 767 despite passing so close to it. The UKAB considers there was an actual risk of collision.

That incident was in March last year. In the report of airprox incidents during the first six months of 1999, the Board shows that GA aircraft were involved in two other close encounters with commercial air transport (CAT) flights.

In April 1999, the crew of a BAe146 started their take off from Birmingham Airport without clearance, causing a PA 38 that was doing a touch and go on the same runway to stop and veer away. The airliner's wing passed over that of the PA 38.

The failure of ATC at Bournemouth Airport to coordinate a missed approach was blamed for an incident in June 1999, in which an ATR72 and PA 23 Aztec passed less than 400 yards from one another. The Board has recommended that the CAA reviews ATC practice at Birmingham and Bournemouth.

UKAB says that one third more General Aviation aircraft were involved in airprox incidents in the first six months of 1999 than in the corresponding period the year before. UKAB assessed 72 airprox reports involving GA aircraft compared with 54 in the first half of 1998. The number of cases in which there was a risk of collision went up from 22 to 35.

But the number of encounters between GA and military aircraft in the UK Low Flying System fell from nineteen (twelve of them risk bearing) in the first six months of 1998 to thirteen (eight risk bearing) a year later.

Gordon McRobbie, Director of the UK Airprox Board, says the most frequent cause of airprox incidents is pilots' failure to keep a proper lookout. He stresses that means, 'Not just looking out of the window but keeping an effective lookout and proactively searching the sky.'

Another common cause is low flying. McRobbie suggests, 'Many incidents would be avoided if aircraft could fly a little higher. If pilots don't have to fly below 2,000 feet they shouldn't. A lot of aircraft come into confliction with other traffic while flying over active gliding sites at 1,500 feet.' McRobbie particularly recalls the incident in which a pilot started a spin below 2,000 feet and, not surprisingly, was too preoccupied to see the helicopter whose pilot then filed an airprox report. Bruce Hales Dutton.

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