Heathrow-bound planes in mid-air 'near miss'

Wentworth golf crowd 'gasps' at Heathrow-bound plane mid-air 'near miss'Wenn

Spectators at Wentworth golf course were yesterday left "gasping" as two Heathrow-bound passenger planes looked to be heading for a mid-air collision above their heads.

But, in reality, the distance between the planes was not uncommon.

According to the Daily Mail, the plane on the left is a mile or two lower than the plane on the right, and both are taking part in a process called 'stacking', where pilots wait their turn to land.

So crowds at the BMW PGA Championship in Surrey actually witnessed an optical illusion.

A spokesman for air traffic control at Heathrow told the paper: "At all times, planes are kept five horizontal miles apart and at least 1,000ft vertically. Even when it looks like the planes are close, there is no danger."

He added: "We do hear reports of these from time to time - especially in the summer when it is a perfectly clear day and there are no visual reference points, making it appear that two planes are close."

And visitors at Wentworth certainly thought they were about to witness a mid-air disaster.

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This landing no doubt ended up being textbook perfect, but some airports have rather scarier take-offs and landings:

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Heathrow-bound planes in mid-air 'near miss'

Planes can only land here when the tide is out. Washed by the sea twice a day, Traigh Mhor runway is reputed to be the only beach runway in the world to handle scheduled airline services.

This Alpine airport is home to an extremely short uphill runway (1,722 feet) - and there's a vertical drop at the end. Oh, and then there's the wind, sleet and snow - all of which play havoc with all things airbourne.

A gateway airport to many smaller Caribbean islands including St Barts and Anguilla, planes landing at St Maarten Airport provide a great photo opportunity from Maho beach.

Skimming over the beach towards the 2,300m runway, this stretch of coastline sees a lot of daily traffic with the airport servicing around about 100,000 flights a year.

Located around five miles from the centre of Sao Paulo, Congonhas is one of the busiest airports in Brazil. The proximity to the city centre means it may feel like you're skimming the tops of skyscrapers as you land and take off.

Landing at Toncontin Airport is particularly challenging for pilots due to its proximity to the mountains. In 2008 after a tragic plane crash, the airport was closed to international traffic. A major review of airport safety took place and in May 2009 a runway extension was completed. But despite this, it still has one of the shortest international runways in the world.

An approach to this airport means traversing mountainous terrain and this sometimes involves flying over occasionally active volcanoes. A recent eruption from the Pacaya volcano in 2010 caused the airport to close. Planes run the risk of ending up covered in ash, as this image of a just-landed American Airlines jet shows...

Located in the Maiquetia region of Caracas, this international airport handles flights to many important cities in the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East. Its proximity to buildings and mountains make it a technically very difficult landing strip.

Used mainly by the US Antarctica Program during the summer, this sea-ice runway has to be constructed every year as it melts around December time. Pilots who've landed on the ice say it's much like landing on concrete initially, but when the plane comes to a standstill its wheels sink a into the ice. Don't miss our feature: Revealed! The world's worst airlines!

Pilots had to be extremely skilled to negotiate numerous skyscrapers and mountains before landing on a runway jutting out into Victoria Harbour.

Between 1925 and 1998 Kai Tak served as the main airport in Hong Kong. It has now been replaced by a new airport at Chek Lap Kok.

One of Gibraltar's busiest roads, Winston Churchill Avenue, crosses directly over the runway for North Front airport. This means that the road can be closed for around two hours a day - mainly servicing planes to and from the UK. A tunnel under the runway is due to be completed in 2012.

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