Pilot sparks complaints after spelling out ‘NHS’ with flightpath

Weatherwatch: The downs and ups of plane contrails
Weatherwatch: The downs and ups of plane contrails

A pilot has spelt out "NHS" using his plane's flightpath – leading to suggestions that the flight has broken lockdown rules.

The journey by the Reims-Cessna F150 from Blackbushe Airport, Hampshire, went over the towns of Newbury and Reading in Berkshire in an apparent tribute to the health service.

The acronym "NHS" can be seen on the aircraft's flightpath, recorded on website flightrader24.

Small aircraft are allowed under Department of Transport (DfT) rules to take short flights during the lockdown to ensure their engines are not damaged by lack of use.

Blackbushe Airport posted on Twitter: "Whilst we appreciate this particular pilot's intention, it is well outside of what is permitted and we will be addressing this with the pilot concerned."

It had also posted on April 25: "Today we are accommodating Engine Health Flights in accordance with CAA rules."

Other Twitter users questioned the right of pilots to fly their planes during the lockdown.

One person wrote: "Why are small planes allowed up for a jolly? Is this ESSENTIAL? We get pulled over by #TVP (Thames Valley Police) going to shops or work which is essential!! Small aircraft jolly's are NOT Essential"

Guidance on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website states that flights of no more than 30 minutes are allowed once every four weeks unless otherwise required under manufacturer guidelines.

Aircraft should also remain within the airfield circuit and "should not travel beyond a 10nm (nautical miles) radius of its departure aerodrome and no dynamic manoeuvring activity should be flown".

It adds: "Each flight should be at the highest practical height to minimise to the noise impact on members of the public maintaining social distancing."

Blackbushe Airport refused to comment when contacted by PA Media.