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Investigation on low-flying aircraft

A French naval aircraft that caught widespread attention after a low-altitude pass over and near the island on Friday evening is being investigated by the Department of Civil Aviation.

However, the Captain of the vessel has apologised for any distress caused by the excercises.

According to a spokesman from the Ministry of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, the aircraft had earlier made several low-level passes alongside the departing Norwegian Breakaway cruise ship while still within Bermuda territorial waters.

The aircraft was primarily conducting operations in connection with the French naval ship Monge, which was in Bermuda waters under diplomatic clearance from the UK.

The spokesman added: “As regulatory matters of civil aviation are the responsibility of Government House, the Governor has requested the Department of Civil Aviation to investigate the matter, with a preliminary report already submitted. The Governor is following this up in consultation with the Ministry of Defence in London, while the investigation continues.”

In a statement released by the French Consul last night, the Captain apologised for any disturbances caused by the incident on behalf of the French Navy Falcon crew, and in particular to Government House and the Department of Civil Aviation.

He was quoted as saying: “We understand that some Bermuda residents and visitors, in particular some cruise ship passengers, may have been surprised or scared, and for this we sincerely apologise.”

The statement explained that the Falcons are carrying maritime operations in support of the Monge. The aircrafts are used in support of a range of maritime missions, including operations against piracy, trafficking and pollution, fisheries control and maritime search-and-rescue.

“Flying low and close to the ship is necessary to assist seamen in distress by dropping lift rafts to the water,” the Captain's statement continued. “Our stay in Bermuda has been the most pleasurable and we wish to thank the many Bermudians we have met for their warm welcome.”

A plane that made numerous low altitude flights over the island is associated with the French missile-tracking vessel, the Monge or A601 (Photograph by Stephen Davidson)

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Published June 29, 2016 at 6:57 pm (Updated June 29, 2016 at 9:33 pm)

Investigation on low-flying aircraft

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