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Airprox of the Month

Report No 2016140 reports an airprox between a four engined military A400 and a paramotor - two extremes of aircraft size. The Airprox Board classed the encounter as a Class A degree of risk, both pilots assessed the risk of collision as ‘High’ and the paramotor pilot reports that she thought that she was going to die. Aside from the risk of actual collision there was a very real risk to the paramotor from wake turbulence.  

The paramotor pilot was thermalling engine off within the circumference of a NOTAM’d zone but slightly above its ceiling at around Altitude 2000 ft. She saw the A400 approaching at the same altitude in a left hand turn which was likely to conflict. She took avoiding action but the relative speeds of the two aircraft made it unlikely that her action would make any significant difference to the outcome.  
The A400 pilot was manoeuvring for a Precision Radar Approach to Boscombe Down under radar vectors from Boscombe Director. He saw the paramotor about 300 m away in his 11.30 o’clock at the same altitude. He took no avoiding action as it was apparent that the paramotor would pass down his left hand side.  

The encounter took place in Class G airspace where the rule is ‘see and avoid’. A paramotor is currently classed under the ANO as a glider and thus it technically had right of way. The paramotor had no electronic aids to conspicuity and scarcely painted on Boscombe’s radar if at all. The A400 pilot apparently had no cognisance of the NOTAM which advised of a paramotor training weekend by the British Paramotor Team. The existence of the NOTAM was included in the morning air traffic briefing for controllers at Boscombe. 

The Board congratulated the paramotor event organisers for their pre-planning and issue of a NOTAM but wondered whether they were aware that their event was taking place under an active traffic pattern and if they realised that the NOTAM was a warning of the activity only and not an avoidance area.  The Board thought that there was need for effective deconfliction of such activities from other aircraft rather than relying on dynamic avoidance, and they were heartened to hear that the paragliding organisers had now established an effective liaison with the local airfields.

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