AN RAF Tornado nearly crashed into a helicopter above the A9 near the Drumochter pass after failing to spot it 150ft away, investigators reported today.
The incident is at least the seventh critical-level near miss to have involved a Tornado in the last three years.
It happened during RAF low-level flying training shortly before 1:30pm on 22 May over Dalnaspidal, one mile north of Loch Garry.
A red and yellow Eurocopter AS350 was hovering 400ft to photograph a work site when its pilot reported a Tornado GR4 passed to his right “no more than 150ft away horizontally”.
A report by the UK Airprox Board, which investigates reported near misses, stated: “He could not take any avoiding action due to the late sighting. He assessed the risk of collision as ‘High’.”
The board said the Tornado crew had not seen the helicopter, but it was visible in recordings of their forward-looking infra-red and head-up displays.
A driver on the A9 told the board he had seen the Tornado pass the helicopter at the same height then turned right across its flight path.
The board said the RAF was fitting collision avoidance systems to its Tornados, which “might reduce the likelihood of a repeat of this type of incident in the near future”.
Its report stated: “The board unanimously agreed that there had been a risk of collision”, caused by non-sighting by the Tornado crew.
Previous A-rated near-misses include a Tornado coming within 30ft of another RAF jet during a night-time mid-air refuelling exercise off northern England in January last year.
In another case, a Tornado on a training flight from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray crossed the path of two military transport planes coming into land at the air base, passing some 200ft from them.
Two Tornados collided off Moray in July last year, killing three air crew.