Low-flying light aircraft over Sheffield risk causing ‘devastating incident’, says pilot

Planes are flying at ‘unsafe and illegal’ altitudes over Sheffield - potentially putting children in schools near the city’s western edge at risk of a ‘devastating incident’.

Thursday, 19th September 2019, 11:48 am
Updated Friday, 20th September 2019, 12:20 pm
Stanage Edge.

Light aircraft setting off from airstrips in the Peak District have been seen flying over the city as low as 300 feet above the ground, despite the minimum limit being more than three times higher than that at 1,000 feet.

Complaints have been lodged with a number of flying clubs in Derbyshire warning of the dangers of low flying over population centres, and the Civil Aviation Authority have been asked to investigate as well.

One of those complaining said planes were habitually flying over four separate schools in the area, potentially putting up to 4,000 pupils at risk not to mention hundreds more adults in the surrounding houses.

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The man - who spoke to The Star on condition of anonymity - said if the practice continued he feared a repeat of an incident like the Shoreham air crash in 2015 in which a jet crashed and 11 people died.

He said: “The planes appear to be using the biggest school in the area as a navigation point but the law says they need to fly at a height that would allow them to glide clear of an area.

“It is increasing and it is dangerous and if one was to come down it would devastate the hobby flying and light aviation industry.

“Hopefully publicising this worrying behaviour may induce a return to safer flying at higher - and legal - altitudes.”

The man - an experienced pilot himself - said that the problems stemmed from the demise of Sheffield airport, which meant radar coverage of the city was also lost.

He added that his previous ‘polite’ phone calls and letters had so far fallen of deaf ears, and that he felt he was left with no option than to make a formal complaint to the authorities and go to the press.

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority confirm they were currently looking into complaints of low flying aircraft over the Sheffield area.

They said: “Aircraft flying over congested areas must not fly lower than 1000 ft above the highest obstacle in the area.

“We take very seriously breaches of aviation regulations and will investigate and prosecute the individuals responsible.”