Mystery aircraft flies underneath parachute jumper in Beccles

Beccles from the air

Beccles from the air - Credit: Archant

An investigation has taken place into an incident over Beccles where a parachutist reported that an unknown aircraft flew underneath him during a jump earlier this year.

The UK Airprox Board, set up to enhance air safety in the UK, published a report into an the incident on Sunday, May 17, which happened as parachute jumps were taking place.

The report said the pilot of the light aircraft, booked to carry the parachutists, had reported to duty at Beccles airfield and notified air traffic controllers that the parachute drop zone would be active during the day.

During the third lift, controllers identified an unknown aircraft on course to go through Beccles and notified the pilot of the aircraft carrying the parachutists.

The drop zone controller gave a 'clear drop', but as the last parachutist left the aircraft, controllers notified that the conflicting aircraft was now directly underneath it and one of the free-fall parachutists confirmed that he had seen the aircraft with approximately 500-1,000ft vertical separation, according to the report.

The pilot of the conflicting aircraft later reported that he had departed from Duxford in Cambridgeshire on the way back to Germany and did not notice anything unusual.

The UK Airprox Board branded the risk rating a category B, meaning safety margins had been much reduced below normal.

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The report stated that the Board had contacted the pilot of the conflicting aircraft but he had declined to fill out a full report, but did respond by email to state he was flying with a qualified pilot and they did not notice anything unusual.

The Board questioned whether the pilot was aware of Beccles and that it was active with para-dropping.

Although it was likely that he did not know it was active, it is clearly marked on UK charts and, as such, the pilot should have been aware of it, the report stated.

The report went on to state that the Board noted that although it had been unwise for the aircraft heading to Germany to fly through the Beccles drop-zone, the crew of the other plane was aware of it and yet continued to allow the parachutist to leave the aircraft.

'Had they not done so, the incident wouldn't have occurred,' the report said. 'In this respect, the Board commented that clearance to drop from the drop-zone controller did not override the aircraft captain's responsibility to ensure the safety of his passengers and crew, including ensuring their safety after they had jumped from the aircraft if he had reason to believe that there was a hazard to their paradrop descent,' the report stated.

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