Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Military Low Flying Mapping in the UK

Maps are fascinating and as a young and keen aviation enthusiast, the "forbidden" territory of military aviation mapping was a permanent attraction. In the 1970s I always wanted to find a copy of the map which set out the military low-flying system in the UK. At the time, it never happened - the security surrounding the availability of this information seemed to me to be out of all proportion to the flying safety gains that might be made by publishing the maps. It was the cold war and times were different!

Then along came eBay!!

The extract below (South-West Wales) shows the information that was published on the late 1960s/early 1970s low flying maps of the UK. There were clearly defined low-level routes around the UK, with designated entry and departure points.
AFCENT Topographical Low Flying Chart - Europe,  Series GSGS 4991, Sheet 6, United Kingdom (South). Edition 7-GSGS, January 1970. 

The airspace in Pembrokeshire was quite congested at this time.
The danger areas shown, clockwise from the south-east, were:

D118 - Pembrey air-to-ground (A/G) range, used mainly by RAF Chivenor;

D117 - Proof and Experimental Establishment Pendine;

D115 - School of Anti-Aircraft Artillery Manorbier;

D114 - A/G range used mainly by Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Brawdy;

D113 - Royal Armoured Corps Range (RACR) Castlemartin;

D112 - Coastal Artillery Range, East Blockhouse - probably defunct by this date;

D111 - A/G ranges at Talbenny airfield and St Brides Bay, used predominantly by RNAS Brawdy;

D201 - Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) Aberporth.

The designations of these danger and restricted areas had been changed since the late 1960s, moving towards the incorporation of the areas latitude into the range identifier. For example, D113 (Castlemartin), is between 51N and 52N. Aberporth range, D201, is between 52N and 53N. This nomenclature remains in use today.

There was also the busy airfield at RNAS Brawdy, whose Military Air Traffic Zone (MATZ) is shown in blue, as is the the zone around Haverfordwest airfield (Withybush).

The area bordered in bright pink was Low Flying Area 7 (LFA 7), the controlling authority for which was Brawdy Air Traffic Control (ATC). The low-flying route passing to the west of the airfield at Fairwood Common on the Gower peninsula was a transit route between LFA 7 and LFA 2 in the south-west of England. This is marked out in purple dots and dashes.

The chart below is an earlier edition of GSGS 4991, Sheet 6.

Topographic 1:500,000Low Flying Chart of United Kingdom (South), Series GSGS 4991,
Edition 2-GSGS, February 1967.

This earlier chart shows the different nomenclature for danger and restricted areas, the W indicating that the area was in the west of the UK. The colour scheme for the Air Information seems, to my eye, a lot less clear than the 1970 chart illustrated above.

I will come back to explain a littler more about the UK Low Flying system in the near future. In the mean time, if you are someone who knows more about this than I, or can add more information about the mapping the Military Airspace over the UK, then I would very much welcome your comments.

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