Concern over low flying aircraft in wake of Cley helicopter crash

The scene of the helicopter crash at Cley. Picture: Antony Kelly The scene of the helicopter crash at Cley. Picture: Antony Kelly

Friday, January 10, 2014
7:03 AM

Concerns over low flying aircraft passing over north Norfolk’s wildlife-filled marshes have been raised in the wake of Tuesday’s fatal helicopter crash.

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One birding enthusiast said the popular beauty spots were “inappropriate” for such exercises and residents have said it was worrying to learn the Pave Hawk that came down in Cley was carrying live ammunition.

The MoD said the helicopter had been on a “normal” training mission and flying legally within the low flying area.

But the crash has brought concerns to the fore.

Chris Mills, who runs Norfolk Birding tours, said: “I have had the experience of a helicopter hovering over my head to the point where I could see the pilot. It’s obviously not a suitable area to do it over, it’s not like it’s a very remote environment. The north Norfolk coast is very busy.”

Sarah Whittley, co-owner of the Pinkfoot gallery in Cley High Street, echoed Mr Mills’ sadness over the loss of life but questioned the need for live ammunition, and the choice of location.

“They’re so close to our heads, it’s not like they’re far away. It (the crash site) is less then a mile away from the village,” she added.

Brendan Joyce, chief executive of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust which manages Cley marshes, said the group had some concerns about exercises, but did not think it was the time “to start raising these issues” so soon after the tragedy.

The north Norfolk coast has long been in the flight path for military craft, but villagers said in the last few weeks they had noticed some coming particularly low.

Richard Kelham, chairman of Cley Parish Council, said worries over aircraft movements were not as bad as they were 15 - 20 years ago, when Norfolk was home to more RAF bases, but if the situation could be improved it would be “welcomed”.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said his first thoughts were with the families of those who died, but added: “We have got to be prepared to look at what lessons need to be learned for this.

“One understands there has to be training sessions but obviously they have got to be undertaken as safely as possible.”

The MoD has regulations for all aircraft flying in UK airspace, including rules for low flying areas.

A spokesman said seasonal “avoids” can also be flagged, so exercises do not interfere with events such as wildlife migration. Any need to review low flying rules would have to wait until the outcome of the crash investigation, they added.

21 comments

  • I'm Norfolk born and live here but if i were a visitor certainly would not choose North Norfolk as a holiday location however attractive as it is due to the unfortunate high level of flying activity. I have visited over 30 countries and appreciate the peace & serenity of every one of them. It is very difficult as these operations have to happen somewhere obviously for our benefit and security but we are not remote. RIP the pilots.

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    spark

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • I am from a Military family, not wishing to comment what force or department. BUT, as usual people miss the point. Bad Forum, you are correct - there is more likelihood of a civilian aircraft (either commercial or private) crashing on our coastline than a military aircraft. Nobody ever wants an incineratoraircraftprison on their doorstep as it might interfere with their lives. God forbid these people ever want to stop landfill or want to go on holiday on an AIRCRAFT! Our military (including our US friends) do a fantastic job in both peacetime and in war situations. Carry on boys and girls - your all superb!

    Report this comment

    Fuzzy_99

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • As a local and a resident of the area I'm disgusted by the insensitivity and heartless comments expressed on here by some supposedly 'concerned' individuals. The 3 men and one woman who have just lost their lives were only removed from the crash site yesterday and already people can't wait to criticise why they were flying in the area, unbelievable!

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    Bad Form

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • No-one wants a helicopter coming down in their local marsh, or indeed on their pub, but they are a necessary part of modern life, and their pilots need to be familiar with all kinds of terrain and hazards. One day they could be protecting you, or rushing a loved one to hospital.

    Report this comment

    GoodRockinDaddy

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • It's always the same after accidents like these, how cone these concerns were not raised beforehand? Because your more likely to be hurt or killed on your daily commute as such instances are very rare. As for the wildlife, shut the A149 as more animals are killed on the road than by low flying aircraft.

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    KeithS

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • If we continue to be in thrall to NATO then it is to be expected armed enemy aircraft treat us a military playground.Isn't time our friends from the USA moved to other duties and we looked to Europe instead?

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    Peter Watson

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • Airmen on another blog have said that they routinely fly up to the North Norfolk coast, drop a target into the sea and than shoot at it. Now, has this been observed practise? and were these two helicopters on a life firing exercise. Also, whenever there is an air accident, one of the first questions are about the flight recorder and whether it has been recovered for analysis. Not in this case, the black box was not mentioned in three days, by anyone.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • About time someone raised this. Absolutely disgusting that these people were allowed to fly anywhere Cley Marshes. I hope there will be some form of compensation paid.

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    JacktheBeard

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • It is not just the case of disturbing the wildlife, the North Norfolk coast is totally unsuitable for low flying because of the thousands of migrating geese flying in to their winter feeding grounds , as they fly in large flocks they can easily bring down helicopters & low flying aircraft.

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    david harper

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • People need to a) Think for a minute about those involved in what has just happened, and b) Get a life. Nobody wants anything on their doorstep, but training is a way of life. Without it, our armyair forces and navy could not protect us from anyone trying to beat us or wage war on us. It doesn't hurt anything, whether it be human or animal. Let our forces get on with what they sign up for. Everyone else stay out of it - you would all be the first to complain if you were over run with terrorists, extremists or plain ol' dictators!

    Report this comment

    Fuzzy_99

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • As usual, the moderator police at work. Perfectly polite, non-judgmental comment, telling it as it is from resident perspective, obliterated while some people on here allowed to take a swipe at others who have raised legitimate concerns. Shame on you EDP

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    beachstar

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • Oh grow up you armchair warrior. There are no terrorists waiting on your doorstep or down your toilet bowl. This was an awful exercise without thought for the surrounding area. A full independent investigation is needed.

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    JacktheBeard

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • beachstar -Some people are quick to jump on the bandwagon of self righteous concern after a tragedy but seemed unable to voice those same concerns before? Low flying aircraft, both military and civilian have and continue to fly over North Norfolk everyday but little if any complaints are ever made about it. Light aircraft fly from a small grass airstrip at Mucklebrugh and represent just as much, if not more, statistical risk of crashing as a military helicopter. Where are the complaints about that? 'Legitimate concern' is a smokescreen for those people who are keen to have their say after the event but were conspicuously absent with their concerns beforehand.

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    Bad Form

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • Has anyone thought how you get "live" ammunition from their home base to the bombing ranges? Yes, helicopters could land but fast jets can't. They have to be "bombed up" before leaving their home bases. They are then free to fly anywhere, including low over areas such as North Norfolk, Wales, Scotland etc. The nearest bombing range is at Holbeach in the Wash, so not rocket science to see they are likely to fly over North Norfolk at some point. Mr Shilling, and Mr Bad Forum - you both provide valid points, regarding training and possibility or risk of crash. Remember, both the US and RAF regularly use MoD Sculthorpe, which is just down the road.

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    Bigtrukker

    Saturday, January 11, 2014

  • Bad Form and Shilling, you are the ones missing the point. The concerns being raised in Norfolk need to be answered sooner rather than later. I agree that there should be a delay out of respect but there is no need to wait for the cause of the accident to be ascertained. I can only hope that the US are prepared to be open about the reasoning behind the using the area for training with live munitions.

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    blue tractor

    Saturday, January 11, 2014

  • Blue Tractor - The principal issue here is should military aircraft be allowed to exercise over marshland? The carrying of live ammunition on board an aircraft as opposed to its use is a difficult question to be prescriptive over as it can only be discharged over designated target areas. The question of whether an aircraft should be able to carry it only to and from the target arearange is of course a legitimate one and no doubt will be looked at. The principal issue here is should this part of North Norfolk be exempt from low flying because of actual as opposed to perceived risks? The people raising their concerns are reacting as if the risks are either too great or have increased. My posts point out that the risks of military or civil aircraft using this part of North Norfolk have not increased simply because one has crashed. As I've pointed out a civil aircraft crashed a few years ago near Weybourne and although that was relatively minor compared to the crash at Salthouse it does illustrate that no one can remove risk but can only ensure that it is minimised. As North Norfolk marshland and the immediate area of the North Sea is far from overcrowded the risks for using it for low flying by military helicopters is no worse than the risk of a light aircraft crashing either before or after taking off from Mucklebrugh.

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    Bad Form

    Saturday, January 11, 2014

  • Let the American Air Force bury there Friends before you all start moaning and groaning or find something better to occupy your time!

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    dave123

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • beachstar- You may well have raised 'your' concerns with the appropriate authorities but you are either alone or in the minority as to my knowledge I've never heard of any residents making any formal representations en masse to to the authorities or anyone else. As I alluded to in my previous post, private aircraft flying in and out of Mucklebrugh airfield represent an equally statistical risk of crashing into either Weybourne Village or Salthouse as to a military helicopter crashing into Cley. Indeed an aircraft crashed at Mucklebrugh a few years ago but there was no furore over that incident even though the 'could of' situation existed. Unfortunately, accidents happen, until the cause of this one is ascertained unnecessary speculation is both futile and unhelpful. 'If' there are lessons to be learnt I'm sure they will be but until then perhaps you'd should consider directing you energies and concerns to having Muckleburgh airfield shut down as the risks of those using it present a 'potential' danger to the nearby villages?

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    Bad Form

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • Flaming heck 'beachstar' Someone else is alive !

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    spark

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • Norman Lamb doesn't even live in the constituency

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    Jeffrey Osborne

    Friday, January 10, 2014

  • Bad Form - I, and many people I know have raised concerns regarding low flying, particularly at night, with the appropriate authorities. It is only when an incident of this nature occurs that there is an opportunity to voice those concerns in a open forum such as this. I have often sat in fear as helicopters and jets tear over my home at low level, and not wishing to take anything away from what is a dreadful tragedy for the families of the poor aircrew, it is only by the grace of God that this accident did not happen over the village.

    Report this comment

    beachstar

    Friday, January 10, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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