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ROYAL SCARE FORCE; Jet misses passenger flight collision.. by half a second.

Byline: SHAUN MILNE

SCOTS top guns training to blitz Baghdad were half a second away from smashing into a passenger plane at 5,000ft.

The Tornado jet, based at RAF Leuchers in St Andrew's, Fife, was travelling so fast there was no time to switch course.

Only sheer luck stopped it slicing through the civilian Shorts aircraft, which had 11 people on board.

The Tornado was one of four taking part in the night training along with another 28 military fast jets.

Air traffic control who were speaking to the shocked civilian pilot heard him swear loudly as the dramatic near miss of just 100ft happened.

Air accident investigators said: "The pilot almost almost immediately transmitted an expletive followed by the words 'airmiss' (near miss).

"The two-man Tornado crew did not see the conflict until it had passed via their on-board radar."

The incident, which occurred 26 miles from Newcastle airport last March, was detailed in an Air Accident Investigation Branch report yesterday.

The jet swooped as the Gill Airways' Shorts SD360 from Aberdeen descended into the airport. The near miss was one of 87 involving military and commercial planes in uncontrolled airspace from January 1990 to March last year.

Four were of category A, in which there was real risk of a collision.

In its report, the AAIB said that the CAA and the Ministry of Defence should look at safety of uncontrolled airspace, where pilots get information from controllers but are responsible for avoiding other aircraft on a "see-and-be-seen" basis.

The report is also likely to re-ignite the row over the privatisation of air-traffic control at Prestwick, Ayrshire.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 21, 2001
Words:270
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