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Low Flying Helicopters and Jets

Village gets low flying ban

Military helicopters have been banned for five years from flying below 2,000ft over the Lincolnshire village where horse rider Heather Bell died in June last year, writes Nigel Burnham.


Mrs Bell's family received the news in a letter from the Ministry of Defence's director of air staff Air Commodore Richard Garwood, who told them: "As a mark of respect for Heather, I have instructed all low-flying military helicopters to continue to avoid Middle Rasen."


The exclusion zone extends for a radius of 1.5 miles, and centres on the village church, up to a height of 2,000ft. The MoD's decision will be reviewed in five years' time.


Mrs Bell, 38, died after being thrown from her horse. An inquest jury decided that her horse was "spooked" by a low-flying RAF Chinook helicopter.


After the inquest, Louth and Spilsby coroner Stuart Fisher wrote to the MoD, demanding changes to the policies on low-flying aircraft. He asked that areas available for low-flying training be reduced, and that the public be informed when and where low-flying is scheduled to take place.


Mr Fisher also suggested that the MoD explore the possibility of using tracker devices that could alert pilots to nearby riders.

Air Commodore Garwood confirmed in his letter that Mr Fisher's recommendations were being examined "very carefully".


The Bell family's solicitor, Tean Butcher, said the family was pleased with the MoD's response but believed that the low-flying ban should not be restricted to Middle Rasen "as this is an issue that affects the whole of Britain".


Susie Fleetwood, of Abbey Livery Riding Stables, Langworth, near Middle Rasen, says: "This is good, but it is too little too late. A person had to die before anything was done. "Action needs to betaken nationally. The MoD needs to study maps of bridlepaths and connecting roads to work out where horses are likely to be, then avoid flying aircraft low in those areas."


THE MoD was due to hold a press briefing this week (23 December) in the wake of the coroner's report after the Heather Bell inquest.


North Yorkshire low-flying action group formed


A North Yorkshire rider has formed an action group in a bid to stop low-flying helicopters and jets spooking horses in the county. Linda Butler-Blades is appealing for any riders whose horses have been disturbed by aircraft to join the group to take on the MoD.


Linda, of Grewelthorpe, near Ripon, decided to act after her 17-month-old filly Goldi ran through a barbed wire fence after being spooked by low-flying Chinooks.

Source:  Horse & Hound 23 December 2004


Linda may be contacted through Riding Safely 

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