Declassified files: RAF flight ended up in Mullingar

The off-course flight was down to pilot error
The off-course flight was down to pilot error

An RAF plane veered far off course in 1987, intruding more than 50 miles into the Republic’s airspace and causing diplomatic angst over what apparently was a genuine navigational error by an inexperienced pilot.

The flight by a de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver – an aircraft which had been used at the time by the RAF’s Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (Northern Ireland) – reached as far as Mullingar.

A briefing document prepared for the Secretary of State ahead of a meeting of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in February 1988 told Secretary of State Tom King that the Irish side may raise the issue.

“There is widespread scepticism that the incursion by a Beaver aircraft on 30 December was simply an accident,” the briefing said.

“However [word underlined] as the Irish have already been told, this regrettable incident was [underlined] simply due to inadvertence on the part of an inexperienced pilot.

“All concerned have been severely reprimanded. We very much hope there will be no repetitions.”