Close Call: HUD Footage Shows A Near Miss Between Two F-16s and a Civilian B-737 in 2006

A screenshot from the HUD video showing the near miss between an Italian F-16 and a civilian B737.

HUD video shows a near miss between F-16s and a B-737.

I don’t know how this (leaked?) video was obtained. I’m not even sure it will remain online for a long time since it was probably not meant to be publicly disclosed (although I can’t completely rule out the possibility that the Belgian user who uploaded it to Youtube got all the required permissions).

That being said, below you can see an impressive near miss recorded by an Italian F-16. Radio comms can be heard as well.

Aircraft involved are two ItAF F-16s of the 37° Stormo, based in Trapani (radio callsign “Brandy”). Date of the event is Dec. 13, 2006. The two military jets are apparently returning to their homebase after some kind of exercise; they are in contact with “Cyrano” (a French E-3 AWACS) that clears them to climb to FL360 for RTB (Return To Base).

Then, the two fighters are handed over to Rome Military radar (the Military ATC agency for Operative Air Traffic) that tries to identify the mission but can’t establish the radar contact with the F-16s.

The two aircraft continue climbing to the previously cleared level and level off at FL360 when the wingman spots something that is coming from the opposite direction, same level, between the two F-16s (that are most probably flying a loose formation).

At the 03:30 mark you can see the contrails of the commercial jet appearing on the left side. The wingman asks (in Italian) “what is this thing passing in the middle between us?”. The leader of Brandy 41 sees the incoming airliner at the very last moment and performs an evasion maneuver pulling about 4gs.

The cause of the near miss is obviously not clear: for sure the two aircraft were given from Cyrano a clearance to climb to 36,000 feet. The E-3 must have coordinated the climb with Rome Military before the handover. The two F-16s were instructed several times to continue climbing to FL360. Upon contact with Rome Military the leader tells the controller “….climbing 360…” and altitude is repeated once again as the mission gives their position and altitude (“360°/100 NM from RONAB”) shortly before the close encounter, when they are requested to check the C mode.

Something unclear occurred (I think on radar controller side….) but a fine weather, a watchful wingman and a certain amount of luck contributed to the happy ending!

About David Cenciotti 4382 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.