Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance was forced to take evasive action to avoid
colliding with a glider in the skies above Perthshire, it has been revealed.
The helicopter had been returning to its Perth base when the pilot failed to spot the motorised glider due to it being obscured by the windscreen pillar.
After spotting it approaching from the north at the last minute, the SCAA pilot pulled to the right, passing the glider by just 200 metres.
The incident happened on March 25 at a height of 2,700ft, near Forteviot. The SCAA aircraft, an EC135, was returning to base after transporting a patient to Glasgow.
The near-miss resulted in an investigation by the UK Airprox Board (UKAB), which questioned why the SCAA helicopter was not fitted with a collision warning system (CWS).
It pinned the cause of the incident on the late sighting by the SCAA pilot.
In instances where two aircraft are at risk of colliding head on, both are required to turn to the right to avoid contact.
The UKAB noted that although the glider had also turned, they had been unable to contact that pilot to ascertain whether it was an evasive manoeuvre.
They said: “Members noted that the EC135 was not fitted with a CWS and, given the likelihood of encountering gliders during their tasking, some members wondered whether the operating authority had considered fitting a FLARM-compatible CWS or similar.
“Ultimately…see-and-avoid was the EC135 pilot’s only mitigation against mid-air collision, and the fact that he was conducting his arrival checks had understandably reduced his and his crewman’s capacity for robust and effective look-out.
“That being said, although it was a late sighting, he did see the other aircraft in time to take avoiding action, albeit achieving less separation than would be desirable.
SCAA leases both the EC135 helicopter and its pilots.
The charity’s chief executive David Craig said: “We are currently reviewing the report and the observations and recommendations contained within it.
“I am meeting with our aviation providers – Babcock Mission Critical Services (Onshore) Ltd – later this week to determine what steps, if any, we should be taking in response to this incident and the report findings,” he added.