Case of low-flying planes over racehorses is now closed

  • Ministry of Defence investigators say no offence was committed by a pilot accused of deliberately flying low over a string of racehorses (news, 4 October).

    Ann Duffield, who trains at Sun Hill Farm in North Yorkshire, has received a letter from the-then defence secretary, Liam Fox – via her MP, William Hague – to say the case was closed.

    “I wasn’t surprised,” she told H&H. “I didn’t think we would get anywhere. But I have asked William Hague to take this further – on behalf of other riders.”

    The letter from Mr Fox confirms that the Chinook pilot had been in the area conducting “tactical climbs and descents” and he apologises for “the disturbance experienced”.

    But the Defence Secretary stresses that “neither he [the pilot] nor any of the crew… had seen any horse riders“.

    He goes on to say that Chinooks have “poor view beneath the aircraft” and suggests that the riders should have been wearing high-visibility tabards.

    Mrs Duffield told H&H: “They are looking for excuses. We do have hi-viz vests but they wouldn’t have made a jot of difference that day – it was bright and sunny.”

    The case prompted the National Trainers’ Federation (NTF) to ask other riders
    to contact them with their experiences.

    Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the NTF, told H&H he had received more than
    40 submissions.

    “Given the amount of evidence we’ve accumulated, our view is that there is a general case [for the MOD] to answer,” he said.

    There is a persuasive argument that the guidelines for low-flying need to be changed,” he added.

    Mr Arnold plans to approach the MOD through the British Horse Industry Confederation (BHIC), which represents several equestrian bodies.

    Mrs Duffield believes action needs to be taken swiftly.”Our case has unearthed a massive problem,” she said.

    “These might seem like isolated incidents, but they aren’t when you add them together,” she added. “They might not come over me again, but they will kill some other poor sod.”

    This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse and Hound (17 November 2011)

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