Chinook and unidentified RPAS, AIRPROX No 2016163


This one is being misreported in the UK press not only is it being overplayed but the Chinook was recovering to RAF Benson, not RAF Odiham as is being told. I found the Airprox particularly interesting as the precision approach controller (PAR) was aware of the RPA.

It appeared on his or her PAR radar. The PAR sends out two very particular beams that the controller guides the aircraft down in poor weather. The PAR controller is, therefore, concentrating on a narrow band of sky.  Much more time to pick up pop-up objects on the screens.

This it seems is just what happened. I believe this is the first instance where a controller has called traffic, and the aircraft has seen it.  A Chinook is not a particularly fast machine and has a crew trained to look out onboard.

It’s not in a no-fly zone who cares?

I suspect the RPAS operator was not aware of the shape of the military air traffic control zone (MATZ) in which they were flying. While they have no legal recognised status under the UK Air Navigation Order (ANO) for civil pilots and no prior permission is required to enter them. You should not pay attention to them; the clue is in the name. Military and Air Traffic. It is only a very foolish pilot that ignores a MATZ. They are full of fast things which can shoot back.

This information is for UK-based drone fliers other countries have different methods of operation.

A military airfield has a biscuit tin of protected airspace around it that you cannot enter without permission. That is the ATZ it is a circle either 2 or 2.5nm radius centred on the longest runway it extends to an altitude of 2000.’

Surrounding that biscuit tin of there be dragons, is the bit of the MATZ that you can choose to ignore at your peril.

That extends to a 5nm radius and an altitude 3000 feet; stubs stick out from runway centre lines. This is to protect aircraft landing. Think of this as a frying pan shape.

It was within the northern stub at Benson that the Chinook met the drone. Read the full report here

THE APPROACH CONTROLLER reports that on completion of general handling to the west of
Benson, the Chinook pilot carried out an SRA. On subsequently climbing out for an ILS, he reported that between junctions 7 and 8 [on the M40 he reported afterwards] he had seen a UAV the size of a football fly down his left-hand side at 1700ft. Traffic had been called at approximately 7.5 miles north of Benson but had faded from radar before an inbound turn was given. Before taking the aircraft the Talk down controller asked to check whether anything was painting at 7.5 miles because there was again an intermittent contact showing on the PAR console. On checking the screen, the only contact showing was the Chinook,

THE TALKDOWN CONTROLLER AND SUPERVISOR reports the Chinook had just completed an SRA when the pilot mentioned to the Approach controller that he had seen a UAV ‘in the vicinity of Junction 7 and 8’. At the time neither controller was sure where this was. After the Chinook had landed the pilot called the tower to discuss the incident with the Approach controller. He confirmed that Junctions 7 and 8 referred to junctions on the M40, which would indicate that he was conducting or commencing his SRA at the time of the Airprox. This provided some clarification, and the controller did recall having called traffic early on in the approach on a faint contact at about 6 to 7 miles on final.

I thought I would have a look at Drone No Fly Zone software to see if they show MATZ’s Built in no-fly zones are what most operators use. The integrity of the data provided is vital to flight safety. At the end of the day, it is the operator’s responsibility to ensure he or she is compliant.

DJI’s no-fly zones are well, sparse to the West of London.

Altitude Angel does a better job, as the official CAA approved app for the UK you would expect it! They do show the ATZ.

Airmap curiously has lots of great information but make no mention of RAF Benson at all, unless I am not driving it properly.

My bad, I was driving Airmap wrong!

If you do get to greet somebody from the Civil Aviation Authority in a 13th-floor office at a meeting with no biscuit’s they will look at a paper chart, not an app to see if you were in compliance.

For situational awareness and to look cool on the office wall a 1:500000 aviation chart for your area is a must.

Of course, nobody would be foolish enough to try and chase military aircraft.