Norwich flight at ‘high risk of collision’ due to air traffic mix-up

A Flybe aircraft. Photo: Flybe

A Flybe aircraft. Photo: Flybe - Credit: Flybe

An Exeter air traffic controller told a Flybe pilot on a flight from Norwich: 'I'm not sure which way to go now' shortly before a 'high risk of collision' between two aircraft was prevented.

The incident between a Mooney M20 aircraft and a DHC8 Flybe plane occurred at 3.20pm on July 15 and the details of it were revealed in an official Airprox report filed by a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) board this week.

It happened on the Norwich to Exeter flight's second runway approach, overseen by a trainee air traffic controller, after the first attempt was abandoned because of 'conflicting unknown traffic.'

The Flybe pilot had deemed there to be a 'high risk of collision' but the report found that although safety had been degraded 'the action taken had removed the possibility of a collision'.

The report stated: 'The controller acknowledged this and said something like 'I'm not sure what heading to turn you onto.' Another voice, presumably the supervisor, said 'turn left to 180.

'They turned, continued the climb, and the transition altitude cleared.'

The trainee was quickly relieved by an On the Job Training Instructor after it was deemed that the trainee had 'unsatisfactorily let the situation continue' as the aircraft got closer together.

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The civil flight from Dunkeswell, bound for the Channel Islands, had initially appeared on radar with no information on how high up it was and as a result the Flybe flight was told to go around, climb 3,000ft and turn right.

At one point the Flybe pilot report that the civil aircraft was just 300ft below, but the report found that the two aircraft were well separated at

900ft apart.

The incident had occurred after the civil aircraft failed to communicate with Exeter Airport as the pilot had been told to contact London to activate his flight plan, but was told they were busy.

The report concluded that Exeter's air traffic control centre had vectored, or navigated, the Flybe flight 'into conflict with the M20.'

A spokesperson for Exeter Airport said: 'As detailed in the report, the aircraft were well separated and the action taken removed the possibility of a collision.

'This report offers valuable feedback which will be used to further enhance our own already stringent safety procedures and we are pleased that following this report new flight planning arrangements are also being put in place for light aircraft using Dunkeswell Aerodrome.'

Luke Farajallah, Flybe chief operations officer said: 'Flybe welcomes the findings contained in the Airprox Report.

'The airline industry operates under the strictest of regulatory regimes, which is why aviation remains the safest of all forms of public transport.'

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