On 15 October 2008, following participation in a military exercise over East Anglia (UK), a formation of 2 foreign Eurofighters entered busy controlled airspace east north east of London without clearance while in the process of trying to establish the required initial contact with military ATC, resulting in loss of prescribed separation against several civil aircraft.
This incident occurred during the recovery of multiple military aircraft to Florennes, Belgium on completion of a NATO Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) exercise over East Anglia. A formation of two foreign-operatyed Eurofighters not squawking failed to obtain the expected service from upon military ATC and then entered Class 'A' controlled airspace without clearance.
The following is taken from the summary of information assembled by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB):
While trying to establish proper contact with military ATC, the pair entered busy controlled airspace (CAS) near Heathrow. The leader then decided to declare emergency for fuel and substantial deviation from the route, he subsequently was vectored towards his base.[…]
Throughout the period that the Eurofighter formation was in Controlled Airspace without a clearance, they had 4 erosions of separation with Commercial Air Transport, 2 whilst they were non-squawking and 2 encounters whilst squawking emergency…"
Summary of AIRPOX Board Discussions
- "The foreign military Eurofighter formation pilots were probably expecting a different level of ATS, being accustomed to such whilst flying in their own country’s airspace;
- When the Formation Leader made his first call on the frequency, the two ac were seen to be already within CAS without clearance, not holding clear to the north. This was contrary to the TLP Airspace Coordination Notice (ACN), as reinforced by the military controller ‘remain clear of CAS’ instruction, and this was the underlying cause of the Airprox;
- Eventually, when the Eurofighter flight declared an emergency and the squawk appeared on the radar display, both military and civil controllers reacted appropriately through coordination and issuance of complementary avoiding action to the subject aircraft such that separation was not lost. These actions were enough to allow the Board to conclude that any risk of collision had been quickly and effectively removed during this particular encounter."
The Eurofighter formation did not comply with the recovery procedures specified in the TLP ACN and entered CAS without clearance.
UKAB Safety Recommendation
The Ministry of Defence should conduct a thorough review of the recovery phase of the subject TLP to ensure that all lessons are identified and acted upon so that the risk of such circumstances occurring again is significantly reduced.
UK Airprox Board: Analysis of Airprox in UK Airspace - Jul - Dec - 2008 - Report 21, (pp 167 - 171)