A HELICOPTER and a microlight came within 50 feet of colliding over Strathaven, an official report revealed last week.
It happened on March 1 as the microlight was flying into Strathaven Airfield.
The craft – one of three on a delivery flight from England – was cruising at about 1250 feet when its pilot spotted a helicopter heading south some 100 feet to 150 feet away.
The chopper was crossing from right to left and just 50 feet above the microlight.
To avoid the ‘rotor wash’ from the Robinson R-44 helicopter, the microlight immediately turned left towards lower ground where the risk of collision was “high”.
The chopper pilot was travelling from Cumbernauld to a private landing site at Palgowan, Dumfries and Galloway.
It was the third near miss (Airprox) involving a helicopter at Strathaven in about 12 months, according to the UK Airprox Board who investigate such incidents.
The board said the helicopter pilot’s brief report “makes it clear he did not see the microlight as he flew past”.
The board noted the difficulties associated with the microlight site’s geographic location and added: “The HQ Air Ops fast- jet pilot member commented that this was also a common transit route for jets.
“Notwithstanding the previous Airprox reported in the vicinity of Strathaven, the consensus amongst the members was that it was not unreasonable for transit traffic to be encountered (just over a mile) east of a microlight site, but it was the responsibility of transit pilots to maintain a careful visual scan for site activity and circuiting aircraft.
“The microlight, despite its size and slow speed, was there to be seen and the R44 pilot plainly had a responsibility to see and avoid other aircraft.”
The board agreed, therefore, that part of the cause was a non-sighting of the microlight by the R44 pilot.
They also concluded: “The microlight was equally responsible for seeing and avoiding other aircraft but here he was also responsible for ‘giving-way’ to aircraft on his right. This he did successfully albeit somewhat later than ideal. The board agreed, therefore, that a late sighting by the microlight pilot was the other part of the cause.”
It was also noted that the approaching sunset, 30 minutes after the near miss, might have made sighting difficult.
There was also the view expressed that although the microlight pilot had spotted the R44 at a late stage, he had seen the helicopter in time to ensure he was able to take effective avoiding action against it, thereby ameliorating any risk.
The board, added, however: “The majority view prevailed that, whilst the microlight pilot’s robust manoeuvre had removed the actual risk of a collision, at these close quarters the safety of the two aircraft involved had indeed been compromised.”
The board recorded the degree of risk as B – the second highest category, where safety was not assured.