Safety first as RAF paints planes black

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FORGET about anything as complicated as air traffic control or radar, the RAF has hit upon a much simpler way of cutting down on accidents: they are painting their planes a different colour. In an apparently simplistic solution to a serious problem, training aircraft are to be painted black to make them stand out more clearly against the sky.

The junior defence minister John Spellar revealed in a written reply in the Commons yesterday that studies had shown that painting the planes a more conspicuous colour could help pilots avoid accidents.

As a result, training helicopters are to be painted black and yellow while training aircraft, such as the Hawk and Tucano, are to be repainted plain, or perhaps more appropriately "jet" black. Another preventative measure involved fitting powerful strobe lights, as featured in nightclubs, to the undercarriage of military aircraft, Mr Spellar said.

The measures follow the release of figures by the Ministry of Defence which showed there have been five accidents involving low-flying RAF aircraft in the past three years.

Following a mid-air collision between a police helicopter and an RAF Tucano in the West country last year, studies into aircraft visibility were undertaken. "We went back to the drawing board and looked at how to make aircraft more conspicuous and painting them black - believe it or not - was the answer," said an MoD spokesman.

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