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Apache helicopter and air ambulance in mid-air near miss at Wattisham

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An Apache helicopter departing from Wattisham Airfield was involved in a near miss with an air ambulance, a report has revealed.

The Apache pilot reported the air ambulance passed about 150 ft above it and assessed the risk of collision as 'high'.

The air ambulance pilot said there was a 300 ft separation and described the risk as 'low'.

An Apache helicopter from Wattisham. Stock image
An Apache helicopter from Wattisham. Stock image

A report by the UK Airprox Board, which looks into near misses between aircraft, concluded the risk of collision during the incident, on May 20 at about 4pm, was 'low' as 'each captain was visual with the other aircraft'.

The air ambulance had departed Cambridge airport on a mission to Ipswich on a route through Wattisham airspace.

The Apache was departing Wattisham and given clearance to 'maintain runway track and climb to height 1,500ft'.

Its non handling pilot saw the air ambulance and 'assessed that it was higher and would pass in front'.

It continued to climb as per clearance and, after 20 to 30 seconds, the non handling pilot regained visual contact with the ambulance and ordered the handling pilot to stop the climb at a height of 800ft.

The air ambulance passed above and the Apache continued to climb.

The air ambulance crew believed there was a 'low risk of collision since both call-signs were visual with each other'.

However, they were 'surprised that Wattisham air traffic control had cleared the military helicopter for departure rather than waiting' until the air ambulance had cleared the immediate area.

The Airprox Board categorised the degree of risk as 'C' with a 'low risk of collision'.

They said the 'situational awareness of the confliction and action' on the ground was 'ineffective'.

Regulations, processes, procedures and compliance in the air were assessed as 'ineffective' because 'the Apache crew did not give way' to the air ambulance, converging from the right, but 'closed to a range at which avoiding action was required'.

The board made no recommendations.

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