Historic Spitfire missed mid-air collision ‘purely by chance’ in skies near Sywell Aerodrome

Official report shows World War Two plane passed within 600ft of light aircraft

Monday, 13th June 2022, 10:50 am

A historic Spitfire narrowly missed a mid-air collision in skies near Sywell Aerodrome "purely by chance," according to an investigation report.

Data from the National Air Traffic Service revealed the World War Two Spitfire T9 passed within 600 feet of a Cessna 340 light aircraft while both both at 1,900 feet on 28 October, 2021.

A report by investigators the Airprox Board declared it a Category A incident.

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Around 22,000 Spitfires were built for service during the Second World War but only around 50 remain airworthy. Library picture

It added: “The board quickly agreed that a risk of collision had existed but there followed a lengthy discussion on whether or not the aircraft had avoided a collision purely by chance or if the actions of one or both of the pilots had introduced a degree of separation.

“After further debate, the board agreed that neither pilot had had the time to materially affect the separation and that providence had played a major part in events.”

According to the Airprox report, the Spitfire pilot had just levelled off from a descending turn.

It said: “Approximately ten seconds later, the twin-engined aircraft appeared out to the right having been obscured by the Spitfire engine cowling.

“This had led to the Spitfire pilot not sighting the C340 until it had been too late to take any meaningful action to increase separation.”

The planes were overhead between Wellingborough and Kettering, around three miles north-west of Sywell, when the incident occurred.

The Cessna pilot told the Airprox Board the Spitfire was not seen initially due to its very slim frontal profile, adding: “The first indication was as it took avoiding action, presenting its underside.”

Immediately after the near-miss, the Spitfire pilot radioed Sywell Airport to ask if there was a twin-engine aircraft in the area. But the station was unattended and no response was received.

An Airprox is a situation in which the distance between aircraft have been such that the safety of the aircraft involved may have been compromised.

Neither aircraft was identified in the report.

Around 22,000 Spitfires were built between 1938 and 1945 but only around 50 are believed to be still airworthy.

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