AIR traffic controllers have been criticised after two high-speed RAF fighter jets were forced to take evasive action to avoid a passenger plane.

An investigation into the incident involving two Hawk jets from RAF Leeming, near Bedale, North Yorkshire, and a KLM passenger plane bound for Amsterdam that had taken off from Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA), found the planes came within 2.7 miles distance and 200ft height of colliding, north-east of Guisborough.

A report by the UK Airprox Board, which examines incidents in which the distance between aircraft as well as their relative positions and speed may compromise safety, concluded there had been no risk of collision.

It stated the military jets had been conducting an air combat manoeuvring sortie over the North York Moors at 9.20am on April 28 as the DTVA controller was advised to route the KLM F70 Fokker, which can hold up to 80 passengers, towards the coast in order to avoid them.

The report said although a military air controller advised the Hawks, which can fly at up to 638mph and supersonic speed in a dive, of the outbound F70, they continued flying towards it.

The KLM pilot said shortly after being told two Hawks were approaching from the right, he saw the jets doing an evasive right turn.

The report states: "A few seconds later, the formation made a left turn towards him again, triggering a traffic collision avoidance system resolution advisory to adjust vertical speed...

"Another evasive turn was made by the jets and he continued his climb."

The board found while the DTVA controller was in a difficult position in trying to avoid fast-jets who were manoeuvring, he should have "reassessed the plan and given an avoiding action turn; at the very least", as a turn to the left would likely have prevented the collision alert.

It stated: "Some members of the board opined that, in addition, had he called the military controller for an early handover of the F70 they may have been more pro-active in helping him to achieve coordination."

The report added: "The dynamic nature of the Hawk air exercise does not appear to have been fully

understood by the DTVA controller who, having initially given the F70 a heading to keep it clear of

the Hawks, chose to rely on the F70 out-climbing the Hawks."

The board said the military controllers could have done more to help the DTVA controller, particularly given that the F70 was due to be handed over to them.

Spokesmen for RAF Leeming and DTVA said they were unable to comment.