Two US F15 fighter jet pilots nearly hit pair of skydivers plummeting to earth at 120mph as they flew over parachuting centre
- Terrifying footage captured on helmet cameras as they fell over Chatteris
- Report says RAF Lakenheath pilots should’ve known site was active on April 17
- Cambridgeshire parachute site usually calls air traffic control to warn of activity
Two skydivers plunging to earth over the English countryside at 120mph had a terrifying near miss when they were almost hit by two US fighter jets.
The freefallers filmed the incident on a GoPro headcam as they tumbled through the sky near the Cambridgeshire town of Chatteris.
The F15 fighter jets were flying at 350mph – well below their top speed of 1,600mph, but it would have been enough to kill the skydivers instantly.
The US pilots based at RAF Lakenheath should have been told by air traffic control that the Cambridgeshire parachute site was active, said the UK Airprox Board in a report today.
It has led to the US Air Force base at Lakenheath re-briefing its fighter crews to ‘make them aware’.
Two freefallers filmed the incident on a GoPro headcam as they tumbled through the sky near the Cambridgeshire town of Chatteris and nearly hit two F15 fighter jets (one pictured)
A map shows the position of the F15 fighter jets when they nearly collided with two skydivers
Last summer the Duchess of Cornwall was involved in a near miss over the airfield as she flew back home to Gloucestershire in the Royal helicopter from attending a flower show at Sandringham.
The board was unable to establish how close the skydivers and the warplanes came to colliding over Chatteris airfield on April 17, but still classified it in the second-highest danger category.
‘The board was shown Go-Pro footage filmed from the helmet of one of the parachutists and could clearly see the F15s passing beneath’ said the report.
The jets had made a turn shortly beforehand to avoid a refuelling tanker. They were ‘handed over’ from air traffic controllers at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to the team at Lakenheath in Suffolk, home of the US Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing.
‘However, the frequency became busy just as they transferred and so, by the time the F15 pilots checked in with the controller, they were already about to fly over Chatteris,’ said the report.
The pilots ‘should have known about the position and activities at Chatteris as part of their normal briefing routine’ and either questioned air traffic control or avoided the airfield.
Chatteris, where several parachute clubs are based, call nearby air traffic controllers every morning to tell them if they are active.
The F15 fighter jets, which found fame in the 1986 film Top Gun, were flying at 350mph – well below their top speed of 1,600mph, but it would have been enough to kill the skydivers (file image used) instantly
The Airprox board said there was ‘very little more that Chatteris could have done’.
The skydivers had ‘no control over their speed or direction while in freefall’, but could have opened their parachutes to slow their descent, the report added.
The board said it was ‘unfortunate’ that the air traffic controller at Lakenheath had not warned the pilots ‘due to the completion of the handover at a busy time’.
The controller had not subsequently filed a report on the incident.
A US Air Force representative had recently retired at short notice, leading to a gap in the advisory post during which time a report related to the incident was overlooked.
‘A full-time liaison officer had been recruited and was due to be in post in the coming months – in the meantime, the post was being covered by other personnel.
‘Despite the lack of report, he was able to provide the board with details about the circumstances.’
Chatteris, home to several skydiving centres, calls Lakenheath each morning to advise that they are active.
The US pilots (F15 jet pictured) based at RAF Lakenheath should have been told by air traffic control that the Cambridgeshire parachute site was active, said the UK Airprox Board in a report today
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