A Tornado jet returning to RAF Marham came within 400ft of a light aircraft taking aerial photos, according to a new incident report.
The UK Airprox Board said the jet was preparing to land at the air base when the crew was told a Cessna C150 was flying at 1,500ft 10 nautical miles east of them tracking west.
The report, regarding the near-miss incident on May 11, 2017, says the pilot of the Tornado decided to climb to 2,000ft to avoid the light aircraft after receiving an advisory warning from the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS).
Once clear of the TCAS conflict, the crew descended and landed at the air base.
The Tornado pilot assessed the risk of collision as “medium”, whereas the pilot of the C150 said he believed there was no risk.
The UK Airprox Board, which investigates near-misses, said in the report: “The board were informed that the C150 photo sortie was agreed at short notice and, because of the short notice, the Tornado crew were unaware of the task until they contacted Marham to join the visual circuit.”
It adds that the Marham Tower controller had given the Tornado crew information which was “well intentioned”, but said it was “inaccurate” and had therefore given the crew a flawed picture of the C150’s position.
“The Tornado crew believed the C150 to be to the east of the airfield when in fact it was to the southwest.”
HQ Air Command described the incident as a “prime example of situational information being transmitted with the intention of sharing accurate SA (situation awareness), but being received and assimilated in a manner that was different to that intended.”
The report says that the Tornado crew had reacted appropriately, having believed that there was a possibility of “conflict” with the light aircraft.
The board commended the Tornado crew for responding to the TCAS warning, stating that their actions had ensured that “safe separation” was achieved.
The report summary concludes: “Members agreed that the Tornado crew’s climb had ensured that, although safety had been degraded, there had been no risk of collision.”