The Hurricane, Spitfire and Chipmunk aircraft have recently been fitted with a FLARM Collision Avoidance System. This system transmits position, height and projected flight path and receives similar information from other FLARM equipped aircraft. The pilot is presented with a display showing all nearby aircraft and receives a warning in the event of a potential collision. FLARM is now widely used in gliders and light aircraft and, as BBMF use the same very busy airspace, this modification provides valuable protection for the BBMF fighter aircraft. The Lancaster and Dakota will also have the system installed during their next winter maintenance.
Gliding Clubs have further exploited the FLARM system by establishing ground stations to monitor the flights of their aircraft. These ground stations automatically feed data to a website (www.cunimb.fr/live ) that provides a ‘live’ flight tracker for FLARM equipped aircraft. This site is similar to Flightradar24 used recently to track VERA. The majority of aircraft shown are gliders, displayed as yellow boxes; powered aircraft are displayed as blue boxes. Clicking on an aircraft provides additional information such as owner, home airfield, registration, speed, altitude etc. The track of the aircraft is also shown and the map can be zoomed in for a more detailed picture.
The system does, however, have some limitations. Firstly, although ground station coverage continues to improve, there are presently a few blank spots in the UK where aircraft cannot be tracked. Secondly, aircraft recognition is dependent upon operators updating a database with details of their aircraft. The BBMF aircraft have been registered but it may take some time for the data to appear on the website. In the meantime, the BBMF aircraft will still be displayed, but may not be easily recognisable. However, there are presently very few FLARM equipped powered aircraft, so a ‘blue box’ travelling at 300-400 kph is very probably a Spitfire or a Hurricane!