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That was too close: RAF Tornado comes within 30ft of mid-air collision
February 16, 2009 2:54 AM   Subscribe

That was too close. RAF Tornado comes within 30ft of mid-air collision.
posted by nthdegx (50 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
they had a closing speed of 800MPH+ so 30 feet clearance was plenty.

UK planes run with the little red navigation lights on the port wing, right?
posted by troy at 3:02 AM on February 16, 2009


well, I guess that's why you recruit people with split-second reflexes then spend millions training them up.

I wonder how they got the footage?
posted by Wilder at 3:03 AM on February 16, 2009


Holy G-force!

England: Land of Close Calls & Lucky People
posted by RavinDave at 3:15 AM on February 16, 2009


Damn frightening. All that room in the sky, and occasionally you'll still get unlucky.

I remember seeing a closer near-mid-air between two fighters on LiveLeak (or somewhere similar) about six months ago, but I'm having little luck finding it.
posted by sektah at 3:23 AM on February 16, 2009


Somewhat similarly, Mutually Assured Destruction: You're doing it wrong.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:34 AM on February 16, 2009


It must be something in the water, we seem predisposed to it in a variety of situations.
posted by vbfg at 3:42 AM on February 16, 2009


England being the size it is, it's crazy to think how fast a modern jet could cover the entire country. Not much room for error.
posted by bardic at 4:03 AM on February 16, 2009


I love how the pilot(?) sings idly to himself while banking around to check whether the other plane blew up/imploded/crashed into a bus full of schoolchildren. I mean, unless it's some kind of secret RAF coded communication protocol.
posted by Drexen at 4:47 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love that he sings little snippets of "flying music" at two places in that clip.
posted by D.C. at 4:47 AM on February 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


jinx
posted by D.C. at 4:48 AM on February 16, 2009


Sadly, not all of them manage to miss. Two young cousins were being brought up on their first 'taster' flight by RAF pilots when they collided and all 4 died.

The people in the FPPed video are incredibly lucky.

As for the submarines, that's the perils of being really damn quiet. All the papers are saying "even though they were equipped with sonar, they still managed to crash" - well yes, but I can't imagine a missile sub pinging away when it's on a deterrence mission, that would kind of defeat the purpose.
posted by knapah at 4:52 AM on February 16, 2009


It states in the article that that the pilot of the Tornado had to bank to avoid the other aircraft, but since the Tucano was above the Tornado's horizon, I wonder if that is accurate. In any event, good fortune for both crews.
posted by moonbiter at 5:05 AM on February 16, 2009


I can't imagine a missile sub pinging away when it's on a deterrence mission, that would kind of defeat the purpose.

Having the nuclear deterrents of both Western European nuclear powers cruising in exactly the same spot of the Atlantic also defeats their purpose (a well-informed first striker could put both out of commission with a single strike...and that even without them bumping into each other on their own).

That said, I guess it will still take a few centuries of European cooperation until there is enough trust between the Royal and French Navies to share with each other the content of their galleys, never mind the location of their most important assets...
posted by Skeptic at 5:08 AM on February 16, 2009


it will still take a few centuries of European cooperation until there is enough trust between the Royal and French Navies to share with each other the content of their galleys

What makes you think the French would even want anything out of the RN's galleys?
posted by me & my monkey at 5:29 AM on February 16, 2009


too close
posted by caddis at 5:37 AM on February 16, 2009


Having the nuclear deterrents of both Western European nuclear powers cruising in exactly the same spot of the Atlantic also defeats their purpose (a well-informed first striker could put both out of commission with a single strike...and that even without them bumping into each other on their own).

Someone knowing their location well-enough to nuke them defeats their purpose. Whether it takes one nuke or two to destroy them in meaningless.
posted by smackfu at 5:49 AM on February 16, 2009



What makes you think the French would even want anything out of the RN's galleys?

Having eaten food prepared by Royal Navy chefs while deployed on annual camp to Gibraltar, I can confirm they are incredibly good at preparing lots and lots of very nice food for hundreds of people. They routinely turn out volumes of quality nosh that would make your average Paris bistro chef faint in horror.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:56 AM on February 16, 2009


Whether it takes one nuke or two to destroy them in meaningless.

The matter is not whether it takes one nuke or two. It is that it is generally more difficult to know two locations than one. The Atlantic Ocean is a very large place, and it is a very strange and unsettling coincidence that the nuclear spearheads of two neighbouring nations had chosen exactly the same place to be floating around.
posted by Skeptic at 6:10 AM on February 16, 2009


Brilliant FPP text, by the way. Lando lives.
posted by waxbanks at 6:28 AM on February 16, 2009


I could only watch that without sound so forgive me if it was mentioned, but why did he bank to the right? The other plane was coming from left to right. Why not bank left BEHIND the other plane rather than into the flight path of the other plane?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:44 AM on February 16, 2009


t is a very strange and unsettling coincidence that the nuclear spearheads of two neighbouring nations had chosen exactly the same place to be floating around.

Its probably not as much of a coincidence as you think.

Coincidence is a funny thing - people are often so shocked or amazed when it happens that they fail to scope it properly. In other words, they think of it in the widest possible terms rather than the narrowest.

In this case, for example, compare the following statements:

"What are the chances of two submarines bumping into each other in the Atlantic?!"

and:

"What are the chances of two submarines of broadly the same design limits, both equipped with anti-sonar measures, from Navies based relatively close to each other, who share the same charts of Atlantic depths and currents, who have access to the same weather data, whose missions have been planned by people with access to largely the same intelligence reports, who were trained according to the same operating practices and were routed by variations on the same navigational software, bumping into each other?!

The first is a genuinely fabberghast-inducing statement. The second makes you wonder why it doesn't happen once a month.

Both are perfectly true statements of fact.

Frankly its often the case that if you stop and think about the majority of coincidences that occur during your daily life you'll find yourself more surprised that they, or something similar, didn't happen sooner.

On a similar note Littlewood's Law is well worth a look for anyone interested in coincidences.

In a nutshell (and to oversimplify), its the theory that although a specific event may be a coincidence, you shouldn't get too worked up about it because you were probably due one anyway.
posted by garius at 6:46 AM on February 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


Regarding the submarines, those who have read the BBC article would be able to tell you:
Nuclear engineer John Large told the BBC that navies often used the same "nesting grounds".

"Both navies want quiet areas, deep areas, roughly the same distance from their home ports. So you find these station grounds have got quite a few submarines, not only French and Royal Navy but also from Russia and the United States."
May I add, WTFMADARMAGEDDONTIDALWAVEBBQ!
posted by asok at 7:25 AM on February 16, 2009


Littlewood's Law is superceded in this instance by MuffinMan's law. It's a variation of Murphy's Law and states simply that "anything that the Royal Navy can run into, it will."

I'm reliably informed that captains used to be fastracked through banger racing events at Weymouth stadium as part of their navigational training.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:42 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


In case you're wondering where the video is, you may have to turn off AdBlock.

The way skyway lanes work seems to practically guarantee collisions. You have the giant world of 3d airspace. Then you restrict pilots to flying on single 1d lines between fixed navigation points. Oh yeah and you require them to fly at multiples of 1000 feet, so for a non pressurized craft there's typically only 10 possible altitudes (and two or three you'd actually fly at). And it's nearly impossible to spot another aircraft in the sky, even flying along at 120mph. It seems a miracle there's not more mid-air collisions to me every time I fly.

Then again this near-miss has nothing to do with that. Presumably the fighter jock isn't carefully navigating between VORs. At least he wasn't playing around in a valley with a ski gondola.
posted by Nelson at 8:18 AM on February 16, 2009


MuffinMan: In all fairness, that ought to be called Adm. Tryon's Law.
posted by Skeptic at 8:23 AM on February 16, 2009


Good thing they were going that fast. His "Holy shit" right bank was tipping his wing up and turning him towards the Tucano.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:25 AM on February 16, 2009


Oh yeah and you require them to fly at multiples of 1000 feet, so for a non pressurized craft there's typically only 10 possible altitudes (and two or three you'd actually fly at).

It'd guess it's probably not a problem because small private planes don't stay that well on their elevation.
posted by smackfu at 8:33 AM on February 16, 2009


I think that it's safe to say, in regards to the Vanguard and Le Triomphant collision, someone is soooooooo getting fired. It's also quite disturbing that these damn boomers are sharing orbits out there. I could kind of understand if you had a fast attack hunting a foreign boomer... we know it happened quite a bit during the bad old days.

Two boomers bumping... talk about on "Oh shit" moment. Nobody grokked my outburst here in cubicle land.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 9:25 AM on February 16, 2009


This. This is why we have the interwebs.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:28 AM on February 16, 2009


Two boomers bumping... talk about on "Oh shit" moment. Nobody grokked my outburst here in cubicle land.
What language is this?
posted by nowonmai at 10:41 AM on February 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Fuck me! Christ! Dum-dee-doo-de-dooo.
posted by Abiezer at 11:13 AM on February 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


(Executive summary)
posted by Abiezer at 11:14 AM on February 16, 2009


In non-technical parlance, a Nuclear Powered Ballistic Missile Submarine; henceforth SSBN, is called a "Boomer". The reason is simple. Multiple rockets with intercontinental range and a multitude of MIRVs, Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicle, also known as a "Warhead".

Many rockets + many warheads = lots o' big booms

SSBNs are supposed to find a nice, quiet, deep piece of ocean to park in and orbit... waiting for orders to release their armaments.

One thing they should never be doing is tooling around in a piece of ocean with additional naval presence... from their own navy and especially from a foreign navy. A tight run boat with a competent crew and solid command most certainly SHOULD NOT be rubbing hulls. In the bad old days... there were several occurrences of U.S. and Soviet submarines playing cat and mouse a little too closely in the NORLANT. These were instances where attack submarines from both sides were testing the mettle of missile boat crews.

Most SSBNs are quiet, especially European and U.S. designs such as the Ohio and Vanguard classes. Still, I've been in a SONAR shack, and these types of boats have hulls and control surfaces lined with passive arrays that can detect the most minute of sounds under water. The SONAR operational crews of both boats were NOT doing their jobs.

Lives could have been lost, warheads could be loose on the ocean floor, a meltdown could have occurred at sea... it's an easy picture to draw... and one that no one would want to be around to see.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:33 AM on February 16, 2009


In non-technical parlance, a Nuclear Powered Ballistic Missile Submarine; henceforth SSBN, is called a "Boomer".

I don't mean to snark, but the Royal Navy slang is "bomber".

I'm resisting a strong urge to type in an Inspector Clouseau accent and make up the French slang for one, but that's mostly because I wouldn't know how to spell it.
posted by vbfg at 12:01 PM on February 16, 2009


I'll raise you one runway incursion.
posted by krautland at 12:04 PM on February 16, 2009


England being the size it is, it's crazy to think how fast a modern jet could cover the entire country. Not much room for error.

Um: it's an island, but it's not that small an island.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:00 PM on February 16, 2009


That bank did not look like evasive action to me - more like the wake from the Tucano rocked the Tornado.
posted by Laotic at 1:07 PM on February 16, 2009


"Um: it's an island, but it's not that small an island."

England isn't an island. Yes, as islands go, mainland Britain is actually fairly big. As countries go, England isn't at all, really. I'm not sure what sort of Tornado this one is, but Wikipedia says a Tornado GR.4 can do 1,511 mph. It doesn't say for how long it could maintain that speed. WikiAnswers puts the north-south length of England at 385 miles. My maths is rusty, but by my reckoning that means it would take a full speed Tornado under 15 minutes 20 seconds to "cover the entire country", by which I think bardic meant cross it. In which case I think the point stands.

"That bank did not look like evasive action to me - more like the wake from the Tucano rocked the Tornado."

I'm not sure Tucanos leave much wake. It looked like evasive action to me.
posted by nthdegx at 2:47 PM on February 16, 2009


your tornado needs to get up to speed first and it couldn't fly faster than mach 1 anyway or the sonic boom would make anyone with a window rather unhappy. I'd suspect an hour is more like it. you're also neglecting the channel and orkey islands, both of which belong to the UK, and the vast north sea territory.

your example would be appropriate for switzerland, which a proper fighter jet can cross in minutes.

I'm not sure Tucanos leave much wake.
correct. they are props, not jets.
posted by krautland at 3:38 PM on February 16, 2009


btw: ba.com lists a commercial flight from london to edinburgh as taking 1h 25m.
posted by krautland at 3:40 PM on February 16, 2009


"your tornado needs to get up to speed first and it couldn't fly faster than mach 1 anyway or the sonic boom would make anyone with a window rather unhappy. I'd suspect an hour is more like it. you're also neglecting the channel and orkey islands, both of which belong to the UK, and the vast north sea territory."

Psshh. Where is it in the rules you have to start from a standstill? Speed up over France. I'm not neglecting the channel islands, just like I didn't start at Land's End. I don't think mapping some convoluted route around England or the UK (and he said England) is really relevant to the point of how long it would take to cross *England* in a modern fighter jet. An hour? You are facking kidding.
posted by nthdegx at 4:00 PM on February 16, 2009


"btw: ba.com lists a commercial flight from london to edinburgh as taking 1h 25m."

Including take off, ascent, descent, landing, and an air speed one third that of a tornado. So yeah. Fifteen minutes sounds pretty good to me. I seem to recall some batshit insanely low figure for getting the fighter jet to the location in the final scene of 28 Days Later.
posted by nthdegx at 4:03 PM on February 16, 2009


I love that he sings little snippets of "flying music" at two places in that clip.

He should have hummed the theme music to Monty Python's Flying Circus.
posted by bwg at 4:07 PM on February 16, 2009


Apparently one of the issues with the submarines is that anti-SONAR technology has gotten good enough that neither sub was able to see the other.
posted by mindhead at 8:52 PM on February 16, 2009


There's a reason the speed limit is 250 knots below 10,000 feet, at least in the U.S.
posted by surlycat at 11:51 PM on February 16, 2009


"There's a reason the speed limit is 250 knots below 10,000 feet, at least in the U.S."

Even for military exercises, which is what these were? I doubt it. Rural Yorkshire is the closest thing the UK has to an Area 51.
posted by nthdegx at 1:05 AM on February 17, 2009


Rural Yorkshire is the closest thing the UK has to an Area 51.

True enough, but I think the aliens ended up in Castleford.

I have several unsuccessful pictures of jets taken at Honister Pass in the Lake District. I'm coming down the hillside to the pass, and all my pictures look to be of the old mine that's located at the road side. They're supposed to be of the Tornado that was doing low level flight training that day and was clearing the pass upside down, several hundred feet below me and at a terrific speed. I shudder to think how far off the ground it was, but anyone cresting the pass in their car at that moment was in for a hell of a surprise.

This isn't an uncommon sight in the Lakes, the Dales or Snowdonia. I don't get up to Scotland much but I imagine there's a fair bit of it goes on around there too.

I missed it everytime so I still don't have a decent shot of this happening. The trouble is you don't hear them coming until they've already gone past, and then it sounds like the gates of hell opening.
posted by vbfg at 2:21 AM on February 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


View pics of low flyers in "Low Fly Area 7 (LFA7) in Wales is a low-level military training area where aircraft are authorised to fly at altitudes down to 100 feet and upwards of 500 knots. "

You can stand on the hillside and watch aircraft fly below you.

Flickr set

And probably the most stunning low flying movies on the web (links on the right for the CAD East and West loops.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 10:30 AM on February 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


You can stand on the hillside and watch aircraft fly below you.

They do that in the middle Rhein valley too. Last August I was standing up on the tower of Castle Rheinfels when a Tornado flew down the valley beneath me. Sadly, I wasn't quick enough for with my camera to take a picture.
posted by moonbiter at 4:33 AM on February 19, 2009


Even for military exercises, which is what these were?
the type of aircraft is irrelevant. supersonic flight is only permissible in very specific corridors.

Psshh. Where is it in the rules you have to start from a standstill? Speed up over France.
you're the type who tells people they can fly ryanair for fifteen quid to mallorca because you never read the fine print on the poster, aren't you? thing with such statements is that while it sounds perfectly fine in theory it never really works out. but hey, have fun in neverneverland.
posted by krautland at 7:18 AM on February 20, 2009


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