The Mirror, 27/03/2001, p1

TWO Top Gun pilots were feared dead last night in a mid-air collision.
The airmen’s fighter planes disappeared from radar screens over the
Highlands as a huge explosion was heard.
A massive search in blizzard conditions failed to find any trace of the
men or their jets.


The Mirror, 27/03/2001, p5

A MASSIVE hunt was launched in the Highlands last night for two missing
Top Gun pilots.
Both their supersonic F15 fighter jets – worth around pounds 530million
each – vanished from radar during a low level training mission.
Frantic rescuers used heat-seeking equipment when darkness fell but
hopes of finding the two pilots alive faded after eye-witnesses
reported seeing at least one plane out of control and claimed they
heard an explosion.
The search will resume at first light today and one source said: “Our
big fear is that the lead jet was in trouble and the other smacked into
it, vapourising both.”
Two RAF Nimrod planes, three Sea King rescue choppers and teams of
mountain rescuers were all still involved with the desperate search for
Last night, as darkness fell, a Tornado fighter from RAF Marham,
Norfolk, was due to carry out an infra-red search and two mountain
rescue teams were deployed into the Cairngorm area.
Early reports described a smell of gasoline over the Ben Macdhui area.
Flight Sergeant Alan Sylvester, of RAF Kinloss, said 250 people were
involved in the rescue mission.
He refused to give up hope and insisted they were not looking for two
crashed planes.
He said: “The pilots both have personal location beacons as part of
their emergency equipment.
“But there’s been no signal from them so far.”
The F15 is known as The Eagle because it is able to climb 98,000 feet
in less than three minutes.
The jets – on a training flight from a US base at Lakenheath, Suffolk,
75 miles northeast of London – lost contact with ground control over
the Cairngorms.
RAF chiefs were probing the reported explosion.
They were also waiting to speak to an eye witness who saw two jets
flying over the eastern foothills of Scotland’s highest mountains.
Fred Lawson was in his car with his wife near Braemar when he saw the
two jets screaming overhead.
He said: “We were just driving east at Linn o’ Dee when this jet came
straight at us.
“I said to my wife, ‘This is extraordinary’. There were two aircraft
and the first seemed totally out of control.
“It veered up into the sky and turned north towards the mountains and
flew into a snowstorm.
“The second aircraft followed but seemed to be under control.”
An RAF spokesman confirmed the timing of the sighting co- incided with
that of the flight.
He said: “The two aircraft took off on a three-hour sortie from
Lakenheath at 12.30pm.
“They were last heard of at 1.15pm when the pilots made a routine check
radio call in.”
The aircraft had been due to land back at the Suffolk base at 3.30pm,
but did not arrive.
The massive search which followed – one of the largest ever seen in the
Highlands – covered at least 100 square miles.
But efforts were severely hampered by a heavy cover of fresh snow
following weekend blizzards, which continued yesterday.
The aircraft are capable of twice the speed of sound and could have
come down anywhere within several hundreds of square miles.
Last night an RAF Kinloss spokesman said: “We had reports of an
explosion in the area of the Glenmore Lodge outdoor activities centre
at Aviemore.
“At this stage we have no way of knowing if the explosion was connected
with the missing jets.”


Categories: Daily Mirror articles

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