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MoD reviews low-flying policy

Major changes to military helicopter low-flying training in the UK are to be introduced throughout October.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has doubled its minimum height for low-flying from 50ft to 100ft and vastly increased the information available on its low-flying helpline. For specific training, helicopters will still be able to fly at 50ft, but this will be reduced to about 10% of previous levels.

“We’ve worked for the past nine months to try to find a solution to enable horses and the MoD to work together,” said Wing Commander Jon Taylor, unveiling the changes to the recent British Horse Society (BHS) safety conference. “We reviewed tactical training activities, undertook high- visibility trials, held discussion forums and monitored flying for patterns of activity.”

The MoD’s review follows severe criticism of its low-flying policies during an inquest last October into the death of Heather Bell in Market Rasen. Bell was killed in June 2003 when the horse she was riding was “spooked” by a low-flying RAF Chinook helicopter.

The jury in the eight-day inquest concluded the MoD had failed to take appropriate precautions to reduce the risk to members of the public caused by low-flying aircraft. The coroner, Mr Stuart Fisher, wrote to the MoD after the inquiry with recommendations to cut the risk of further incidents.

Useful information

  • The BHS and RAF have jointly launched a “Be Seen — Be Safe” campaign, to encourage riders to wear high-visibility clothing to help helicopter crews spot them earlier and take avoiding action. For more information contact the BHS (tel: 01926 707700) or visit www.bhs.org.uk
  • The revised MoD hotline (tel: 0800 515544) will from 3 October contain detailed information on low-flying training, both within dedicated training areas and outside. It is hoped the information will be web-based within three years.
  • If you would like to request that the MoD avoid your farm/event on a specific date, or have a complaint, contact your local airbase rather than call the MoD. Numbers available from directory enquiries — visit http://www.mod.uk/issues/lowflying/index.html
  • This news story can be read in full in today’s Horse & Hound (29 September, ’05)


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