AN RAF fighter jet pilot came within 300ft of crashing into a civilian glider after becoming distracted by another plane, it has emerged.
The Hawk jet, which can reach speeds of up to 633mph, was forced to take evasive action at 9,000ft minutes after taking off from the 100 Squadron base at RAF Leeming, near Bedale.
A report by the UK Airprox Board, which advises on flight safety improvements following near misses, has called for improved communication between glider pilots and the air base following the incident on September 4 last year.
It said while heading south from the RAF Leeming in clear conditions, the jet pilot saw a Tucano training plane three miles away which turned towards him.
It states after “waggling his wings” and turning away, the Hawk pilot monitored the Tucano rather than look ahead.
Almost immediately, the pilot’s air traffic controllers alerted him to an incoming radar signal near him, at Topcliffe, near Thirsk, and he then saw a glider directly ahead, half a mile away.
The Hawk pilot steered the plane in a vertical direction, and passed between 200ft and 300ft above the glider, which was difficult for radars to detect due to its carbon fibre construction.
The pilot of the glider, which is believed to have taken off from a nearby club, said he should have reported his position, height, heading and intentions to air traffic controllers.
However, the board said the glider pilot’s actions of lowering his right wing to present a larger profile to the oncoming plane and dropping 50ft was “instrumental” in the Hawk pilot’s successful evasive action.
The report states: “The pilot did not feel at risk, in fact he rather enjoyed the personal display of skill and ability shown by the [Hawk] pilot. He stated that in retrospect, given that an Airprox [near miss] had been filed by the other pilot, it was a more sobering situation.”
The report states: “The board considered the Hawk pilot’s probable lack of lookout in the forward sector at the critical time and the glider pilot’s reticence to use his radio were both important links in the causal chain that resulted in this Airprox.
“However, members expressed concern with the underlying lack of coordination between the Hawk pilot’s home Station and the local and very active gliding community.”
The incident came less than a month after another Hawk pilot from RAF Leeming reported passing close to five paragliders above Ripon.
An RAF Leeming spokesman said there had been a significant amount of discussions between the military airfield operators in the Vale of York and the local gliding community, with the aim of reducing the number of near misses.