RAF plane carrying one of UK's most senior civil servants 'involved in near miss with drone'

RAF plane carrying one of UK’s most senior civil servants ‘involved in near miss with drone’

An RAF plane believed to be carrying a high-level Government team came within 100ft of smashing into what pilots thought was a drone, a report has revealed.

In March the BAE-146 jet, which transports members of the Royal Family and Government ministers, was flying over north London at around 175mph when its two pilots spotted what they believed to be a three-foot wide drone.

The plane is thought to have carried a Government team including Sir Tim Barrow, political director at the Foreign Office. The team was returning from talks in Brussells with European Union leaders about protecting the UK’s vaccine rollout.

A report by the UK Airprox Board, which investigates near misses, said the pilots reported that the object passed “extremely close” to the aircraft at 6pm on March 26. The incident happened at a height of 4,000ft: ten times the legal maximum height for a drone to be flown in UK airspace.

The device was spotted when the plane was over Wood Green and approaching its base at RAF Northolt, Middlesex.

Sir Tim was previously Britain’s ambassador to Russia and the EU, and was a key figure in Brexit talks. He had been sent to Brussels after the EU threatened to block exports of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to the UK.

The near miss was rated as a Category C incident, where there had been no risk of a collision. However, the pilots on the jet told UK Airprox Board investigators that there had been a “medium risk” of a collision.

They said the drone “appeared to be within 50 to 100ft above their altitude and passed just to the starboard side of the aircraft”.

Safety experts have issued warnings in recent years of the dangers of drones smashing the screens of passenger aircraft, or being sucked into jet engines.

The near miss involved one of two planes configured to fly VIP passengers in the RAF’s 32 (Royal) Squadron.

Air traffic controllers at RAF Northolt reported the sighting to the Metropolitan Police. The Ministry of Defence and Metropolitan Police did not respond to requests for comment.

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