Parachutists in near miss with military jets near Peterborough

A pair of parachutists had a near miss with military jets as they fell to earth near Peterborough.

Thursday, 12th September 2019, 2:24 pm

The skydivers were free falling at 120mph at Chatteris when they saw the two American F-15 jets fly beneath them on April 17 this year.

Today a report from the UK Airprox Board - which monitors near misses in the sky - said regulations and procedures were not followed in teh incident.

No-one was injured in the incident, and the board were unable to establish how close the parachutists and jets came to colliding. However, it was placed in the second highest danger category by the board.

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The incident was filmed on a Go-Pro camera fitted to one of the parachutists’ helmets.

While the parachutists had little control of their speed or direction once they had spotted the planes, the board said they could have opened their parachutes to slow down if a collision was imminent.

The US Air Force base is now re-briefing crews about the situation.

The report said the jet pilots, who were based at RAF Lakenheath, had to change course to avoid a refuelling tanker, leading them to fly over the Fenland town.

The report said: “The Lakenheath controller was aware of the position of Chatteris, and the Board were told that each morning Chatteris called ATC to advise when they are active; the paradropping aircraft also calls on the frequency when they are airborne with parachutists.

“The controller believed he would have plenty of time to change the heading of the F15s when they came on frequency. However, the frequency became busy just as they transferred and so, by the time the F15 pilots checked in with the controller, they were already about to fly over Chatteris. When asked whether the pilots should be aware of Chatteris, the Board were told that it was included in their arrival training at Lakenheath, and that, as a result of this incident, the unit was re-briefing all of its crews to ensure they were all aware of its status. The Board were heartened to hear that proactive measures had been taken to remind all the crews of the need to avoid Chatteris parachuting site.”

The report added: “The parachutists themselves were not able to alert the F15 pilots, and it was noted that the para-dropping aircraft was wearing the appropriate paradropping squawk (0033) which would normally act as a reminder to controllers that paradropping was underway. The Board was shown Go-Pro footage filmed from the helmet of one of the parachutists and could clearly see the F15s passing beneath, although it was difficult to assess the actual distance because of lack of information about the likely wide-angle lens focal-plane foreshortening. Once the parachutists had seen the F15s there was very little they could do to avoid the situation, having no control over their speed or direction whilst in free-fall (CF8), although some members wondered whether if it had been a particularly close encounter then the parachutists may well have been prompted to open their parachutes early to arrest their descent.”