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Glider and military plane in near miss over air base

PUBLISHED: 08:16 13 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:45 13 December 2019

An RC-135 aircraft similar to the one involved with the aerial near-miss over Lakenheath air base in the summer  Picture: GARY STEDMAN

An RC-135 aircraft similar to the one involved with the aerial near-miss over Lakenheath air base in the summer Picture: GARY STEDMAN

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A glider and a military plane flying at more than 200mph had a near miss over Lakenheath air base because their warning systems could not ‘speak’ to each other, an investigation has concluded.

A diagram based on radar and GPS data of the near miss between a glider and a military aircraft over Lakenheath  Picture: UKABA diagram based on radar and GPS data of the near miss between a glider and a military aircraft over Lakenheath Picture: UKAB

The DG400 motorglider flying from Tibenham in Norfolk to Cambridge was forced to take evasive action to avoid being hit by a Boeing C-135.

The glider then had to fly through the turbulence from the Boeing's powerful jet engines.

The incident happened on June 6 and a report by the UK Airprox Board, the watchdog for air safety, found the two aircraft were unable to make contact with each other because their traffic alerting systems were incompatible with each other.

The RC-135 had been on its final approach to the RAF base in Mildenhall and was going at 207mph when it neared the glider, unaware of the imminent danger of a collision.

A United States Air Force RC-135 aircraft  Picture: GARY STEDMANA United States Air Force RC-135 aircraft Picture: GARY STEDMAN

Evidence from the military pilot stated they did not even see the glider until after it had already swerved away from them due to the scattered cloud layer.

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The glider pilot described the risk of collision as 'high' but the military pilot only assessed it as 'medium', proving the difference in experience the two of them had that day.

The glider piot took evasive action while the Boeing did not change course, despite the board concluding the Boeing had a duty to give way.

The board classed the near-miss as a Category B incident, the second most serious classification which and means that safety is not assured.

They concluded safety had been reduced "below the norm" and said that for the RC-135 pilot, by the time the glider was spotted, it would have been too late to take any action.

The disadvantage faced by RC-135 was that the glider, in its white paint against the cloud, was difficult to spot.

The accident was brought about by a system failure to signal the glider aircraft from the Lakenheath centre.

The board concluded communications between the planes and aircraft control was not up to safety standards.


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