Military Flying

In effective and successful military organisations there is an accepted maxim that you have to train in the same way that you plan to fight.  For this reason, training in the UK Armed Forces is challenging and realistic.  Additionally, we do not have the luxury of time to workup for an operation, many of our units are held at very high readiness to deploy at short-notice on operations.  Our ability to respond to the West African Ebola virus epidemic in 2014 and the humanitarian migration crisis in the Mediterranean this year are prime examples.

Military flying is demanding and the skills required to maintain operational readiness for current and contingent tasks have to be exercised regularly.  In addition to well-understood operational missions such as those recently undertaken in Afghanistan (2003 - 2014), off Libya (2011) and around the Falkland Islands (1982), Fleet Air Arm aircraft are involved in less visible operations such as counter-piracy and counter-narcotic activities around the world.  RNAS Yeovilton is also responsible for maintaining, at immediate readiness, forces assigned to support the civilian authorities in the event of a terrorist incident.

In most operational theatres, the lower an aircraft flies, the less the risk to the aircraft and aircrew from opposing ground forces.  For many years, the ability to operate at night has been an integral part of military operations.  This is the case whether the operational theatre involves war-fighting operations, peace-support / peace-keeping duties, or even humanitarian relief.  To achieve the necessary level of expertise we train the way we plan to operate and thus low level flying by day and night in the UK is an essential ongoing training requirement that enables us to maintain operational proficiency for current and contingent tasks.

The current UK Low Flying System was inaugurated in 1979 and was established on the principle that most of the UK airspace should be available for low flying so that the activity can be distributed as widely as possible, rather than concentrated into specific areas with a corresponding increase in low-level traffic for those affected.  In practice, there are many areas of the UK where low flying does not take place, such as major centres of population, civil airspace and key industrial, medical and environmental areas.  The pattern of low flying is also affected by aircraft basing and training requirements.  As a result, some areas of the UK see more low flying than others.  Fixed-wing aircraft routinely fly down to 250 feet.  Helicopters operate down to 100 feet but may operate down to ground level for specific tasks.

All the flying that takes place is necessary, tightly controlled and closely supervised.  Every flight has one or more pre-designated purposes and is authorised by experienced aircrew in accordance with existing military regulations.

We are aware that flying at low level and, in some circumstances, flying at medium level causes a disturbance.  All 3 Services do their best to keep the disruption and inconvenience to a minimum but some disturbance is unavoidable; particularly close to busy airfields such as Yeovilton and Merryfield and in the surrounding area.  Nevertheless, in an ongoing drive to reduce the disturbance of military flying operations, our commitment to the local communities is that we will not fly lower than is necessary for the purpose of each sortie and that we will vary our low flying routes to distribute the associated disturbance.

More information about Military Low Flying in the United Kingdom is provided on the GOV.UK Website and in the leaflet titled, 'The Essential Facts'.  The leaflet can be opened through the following link:


For Yeovilton and the Local Area

If the Air Station is open for flying operations, phone Air Traffic Control on 01935 455 262 and, having stated why you are calling, you will be put through to Air Operations where a member of staff will record the details and pass those details, via the Duty Flying Supervisor, to the Community Relations Officer (CRO).  If in doubt about the state of operations, phone RNAS Yeovilton on 01935 455 001. If the airfield is closed, the RNAS Yeovilton Exchange will recommend you phone back when the airfield is next open. Alternatively, you may contact the MoD Low Flying Complaints and Enquiries Unit directly by phoning 01780 417 558 - the 0845 number previously provided is no longer in operation.

For Merryfield

Call the Officer in Charge on 01460 52018.  If Merryfield is closed or you are not answered, please follow the process for 'Yeovilton and the Local Area' above.

 Anyone may call the CRO (01935 455226); however, she is often away from his desk. If the phone is not answered, please leave a message and she will respond as soon as she can.