Plane and helicopter come within 50ft of collison at Beccles Airfield

Anglian Helicopters Limited based at Norwich International Airport - pictured a R22 Helicopter

A stock photo of a Robinson R22 Helicopter— the same type which was involved in the near miss - Credit: James Bass

Flying students were left "shaken" after a near-miss between a helicopter and an aeroplane occurred at Beccles Airfield. 

The incident, which took place on October 23, 2021, saw a Van’s RV6 plane fly under a Robinson R22 helicopter which was conducting a flying lesson. 

A report, published by the UK Airprox Board, found that "providence" had played a significant part in the outcome, and considered the risk of a collision in the highest category.

Both aircraft had called out their final approach to the runway on the radio, but due to incorrect assumptions came within 20-50ft of each other.

In the report, the helicopter pilot indicates that they were "busy focusing on the lesson" when the radio operator first reported other air traffic, and "did not take any avoiding action" as they had not seen the aeroplane till it was directly below them. 

They said that they assumed the plane was "further away than it actually was".

Due to the excellent visibility that day, the aeroplane pilot "assumed that the helicopter had landed as there was no visual contact", and that when he saw the helicopter it was only 30m above the runway, "dead ahead and slightly higher" than his aircraft. 

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The aeroplane pilot concluded that their "only avoiding option" was to "increase descent, pass under the helicopter and land on the threshold".

Considering the actions of the helicopter pilot, the UK Airprox Board concluded that while their use of the runway at Beccles for their lesson was legitimate, it would have been helpful for them to inform the aeroplane pilot about the steepness of their approach and that they would likely be higher than the plane pilot expected. 

The board agreed that the helicopter pilot had been aware the plane was approaching behind them but had not had "sufficiently accurate situational awareness" to prevent the Airprox.

Turning to the actions of the Aeroplane Pilot, the board agreed they were aware of the potential collision, and that relying on keeping an eye out for the helicopter was not sufficient.

They considered that the plane pilot could have asked the helicopter pilot to advise them on their position, and concluded the plane pilot had formed an inaccurate mental model of the situation in assuming that helicopter had landed because they could not see it ahead of them and had not received any information from their electronic equipment.