Witnesses feared plane crash over the borough

Drivers have told how they feared they were about to witness an air crash after a plane swooped low over Wigan.

A Hercules C130 like the one spotted over Standish
A Hercules C130 like the one spotted over Standish

Witnesses say that the giant craft - later identified as an RAF C130 Hercules - appeared to be less than 100ft from the ground as it rumbled over Standish on Monday afternoon.

Motorist and professional photographer John Cross from Standish, was at temporary traffic lights near the border with Coppull when the grey plane came into view.

He said: “It was quite frightening. The plane came over the top of the Olive Garden restaurant and only looked to be about 50ft above its roof.

“We really thought it was about to crash in the fields nearby.

“It looked like it had come from the Southport area and was heading towards Adlington before suddenly banking north. That in itself was scary because it then banked quite dramatically so the wing looked even closer to the ground.

“It was all over very quickly. I wish I had had more time to at least get my camera phone out to take a picture.

“I couldn’t see any markings on it but it was a big plane - like one of those World War Two bombers only more modern.”

Neil Watson from Shevington was another witness.

He said: “It looked very impressive and just came out of the blue, very low to the ground.

“You know that there must be someone very skilled in the cockpit to be flying a big vehicle like that, especially at such low altitudes when you have a built-up area with pylons and telegraph wires around.

“But it is still quite heart-in-mouth stuff when you see one there in front of you.”

And Standish resident Jean Melling said: “I felt this rumbling first and then this huge aeroplane came into view. It really was quite frightening and I did wonder what on earth it was doing and whether everything was going to plan for the pilot.

“It was a relief to see it make its way off safely into the distance.”

The Hercules’s activities didn’t just cause a stir in Wigan either.

Social media was buzzing with sightings across the North West on Monday afternoon, with folk in Darwen, Blackburn and Chorley all voicing similar fears about the plane’s crashing.

Then an RAF operational low flying training schedule was published online showing that aircraft were due to be on exercises on the Scottish borders and Northern England between 2.30pm and 3.30pm and again two hours later on Monday. Further flights were scheduled in the same zone for the rest of this week without stipulating precise flightpaths.

A spokesman said: “Operational low flying by fixed wing aircraft between 250ft and 100ft is a more representative altitude at which pilots would actually fly at during a combat scenario.

“The final decision to use a Tactical Training Area (TTA) is taken on the day itself as this kind of training can only take place when there is good visibility from cloud.”

The Lockheed C130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings.

It was designed as a troop, medivac, and cargo transport aircraft and needs to be able to fly low in order to parachute down anything from tanks to aid.