Motorists in the Highlands were left terrified after seeing a plane flying worryingly low to the ground – as if it was “something out of a James Bond movie”.
One woman thought she was a “goner” after describing headlights coming towards her “at eye level” while she drove along the A9 Inverness to Edinburgh road this afternoon.
She said the grey aircraft seemed as it was coming in to land, prompting drivers at Pass of Drumochter to slam on the brakes while it passed overhead.
The woman added: “An inexperienced driver might have panicked and could have crashed.”
Suggestions have been made that the plane could have been a military aircraft on a routine low-flying training mission – and that, reaching speeds of up to 400mph, it was pure chance that it had been spotted from the road.
A number of training exercises have been scheduled this week for areas including northern Scotland and the Borders, with jets and transport planes flying between 100-250ft.
But one driver said: “They took it (too) seriously if I could see the plane’s undercarriage.
“Yes, the pilots are skilled but there have sadly been bad accidents after pushing it too low.”
Confirming that both an Atlas A400 M and two Hercules were completing routine low flying in Low Flying Area 14, the Highlands, between 11am and 3.30pm from RAF Lossiemouth on April 30, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said the minimum height is 250 feet and strictly enforced.
He continued: “The MoD takes the issue of safe low flying extremely seriously and understands that military low flying can be unpopular. However, it remains an essential part of operational training.
“The MoD strives to ensure that such disturbance is kept to a minimum and that it is distributed as widely and equitably as possible throughout the UK Low Flying System.
“Unfortunately, there are no uninhabited areas of the UK large enough to cater for all essential training needs.
“A substantial area of the United Kingdom is subject to permanent low flying restrictions, including cities, towns and other sensitive installations such as hospitals and industrial sites; however it is not possible to avoid over-flying the outskirts of towns and villages.”