Fighter jets dangerously close to civilian plane on Victory Day
Last week a dangerous incident occurred in the North Estonian town of Rakvere during a low-altitude flight of NATO fighter jets. At the same time the jets passed, a civil light plane took off from nearby Rakvere airfield, regional daily Virumaa Teataja reported.
On June 23 at 12:30 p.m. an Eurostar small plane took off from Rakvere airfield. Manager Vladimir Antonov said that the local pilot had previously called air traffic control and was in contact with Estonian ATC. “They both said that there was no influencing traffic,” Antonov stressed. “But as the small plane reached about 500 feet, I saw two NATO planes approaching from the East at the same altitude and fly over the Põhjakeskus shopping center. No more than half a minute later two more planes came from another direction and flew over the same spot.”
Antonov, who has years of work experience in aviation, said that he was in shock for a long time after he witnessed it. “I calmed down only when the frightened pilot successfully landed his small plane,” he added. According to Antonov, there have been misunderstandings between military and private planes before.
Antonov sent a letter regarding the incident to the Civil Aviation Administration and the Ministry of Defence. Spokesman for the Estonian Air Force Alar Laats told Virumaa Teataja that a mistake had definitely been made somewhere, and that no such incident should have taken place.
Laats explained that the military planes made a low pass as part of Victory Day celebrations. They were two Estonian L-39 aircraft and two British Eurofighter jets. He added that such flights are navigated by Tallinn ATC.
According to Laats, the flight plan had been sent to the air traffic control center, the transponders were turned on, and the pilots were in contact with ATC. “The small plane flying at about 500 feet was unexpectedly noticed by an Estonian pilot, and our planes continued at the same altitude, while the Eurofighters flew higher," Laats said.
The Civil Aviation Administration said they had been notified of the incident and initiated an investigation, but that they couldn’t comment on the incident yet.