Curious eyes have often turned skyward this year as weird and wonderful aircraft flew over Wales so we’ve compiled the most eye-catching sightings.
The skies above Wales play host to all manner of military and civilian aircraft and they often attract a lot of attention from those on the ground when they fly over unexpectedly.
Although most civilian air traffic ceased because of the coronavirus pandemic there were still plenty of impressive military planes and helicopters in the air in 2020 as the armed forces continued their training exercises.
When a massive military aircraft flies low over homes and businesses people instinctively reach for their camera phones to record the spectacle and we have compiled the best from this year.
Two massive military helicopters spotted over south Wales
RAF Puma helicopters were spotted in several prominent locations over a week at the end of February.
The aircraft might have looked like they were extras from a war film, with machine guns mounted in their doors, but they were actually part of a training exercise.
Their first stop was in Cardiff Bay where they landed on the doorstep of the Wales Millennium Centre before creating a stir by landing on the playing fields of a school in Swansea.
As part of the exercise, the helicopters landed at Olchfa Comprehensive School in Sketty causing a lot of excitement among the 2,000 pupils and local residents.
South Wales Police received a number of concerned calls about the activity of the helicopters and said on Twitter that it was part of an RAF training exercise and added: “As a result you should expect to see a military puma helicopter flying across and landing at a number of sites in south Wales.
“Please don’t be alarmed, this is part of our ongoing work to keep south Wales safe. If you see us, please give us a wave.”
The RAF said the Puma aircraft is used in a variety of combat roles including moving troops, weapons, ammunition and stores on the battlefield as well as the extraction of casualties and in response to medical emergencies on the frontline.
Troop transport flying low over Swansea
A 200ft-long military plane made “a hell of a noise” as it cruised low over Swansea on February 11.
Anthony Thyer was walking his dog at around lunchtime when he heard the roar of the RAF C-17 Globemaster’s engines.
“It flew right over my head. I was on the phone to my girlfriend and heard something – then that appeared from the direction of Swansea Bay. I’ve seen them before but never that low,” he said.
The plane, which can transport entire Chinook helicopters in its hold, was on a routine training sortie from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
It has a 169ft wingspan and can carry troops or cargo weighing up to 45,000kg distances of more than 8,000km.
The moment a massive transport plane landed on a Welsh beach
A huge RAF aircraft was spotted landing on a beach in Carmarthenshire after reports of multiple military aircraft over the county in previous days.
On July the impressive A400M Atlas four-engine transport plane landed and took off from Pembrey Sands.
Keen photographer and RAF engineer Alastair McMurdo was there to capture the moment on his camera.
He said: “The aircraft, operated by 206 squadron based at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, spent the morning performing tactical landings on a rough strip prepared by RAF ground crews.
“The plane weighs around 76 tonnes. It’s easier to land planes on flat surfaces but when it is needed there isn’t always the option of landing somewhere flat. It’s much harder to land on sand so they often practise on beaches.”
Later that day an RAF Chinook helicopter was spotted circling a few miles from Pembrey in Pen-y-Mynydd.
Local resident Gareth Thomas, 41, said it was “brilliant” to see the aircraft so close up.
“I heard it coming and when I looked over I couldn’t believe how low it was so I took a few snaps. At one point it was right over me,” he said.
At the time a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The A400M from RAF Brize Norton was conducting routine crew training, beach or rough strip landings being one of their core roles.
“The Chinook from RAF Odiham was likewise conducting routine operational pre-deployment training.”
RAF Chinook makes emergency landing in village after hitting a power line
The residents in a Carmarthenshire village said “all hell broke loose” at around 9pm on July 28.
People living in Llangynin, a small village a couple of miles away from St Clears, heard a “blaring” helicopter noise and the power went off in the village.
It turned out that an RAF Chinook had made an emergency landing in a field near to the village after it apparently hit a power line.
Elfyd Lewis, who lives in Llangynin, said: “Everyone could hear it. It was very loud but it sounded as if the engine was failing – it didn’t sound right at all.”
The helicopter was spotted flying low over Rhossili Bay
Luckily the crewwere thought to have only sustained minor injuries during the landing.
Some of the crew stayed with the helicopter overnight to keep it secure while others were said to have stayed at a nearby hotel.
It was later confirmed the helicopter was on a training mission when the incident happened.
The weird-looking US Air Force Osprey spotted in Wales
In July dozens of people across south Wales reported seeing an unusual “half helicopter, half aeroplane” circling above them.
Residents in several different areas said they had seen the vehicle which had twin propellers and appeared to be able to hover.
The strange aircraft was a CV-22 Osprey which combines the vertical take-off, hover, and vertical landing qualities of a helicopter with the long range and speed of a turboprop aircraft.
Each with a price tag of $90m, the aircraft landed in Pembrey Airport to refuel before its return journey to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk where it was based.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed the aircraft was owned by the United States Airforce.
There are around 46 CV-22s believed to be on active duty and they are used to “conduct long-range infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply missions for special operations forces”.
At the time a spokesman for RAF Mildenhall said that due to operational security specific information and details such as what the aircraft was doing in south Wales could not be revealed.
Transport plane lands in Pembrey
In September another huge military transport plane landed at Cefn Sidan beach in Pembrey.
The Atlas C.1 (A400M) was on a routine training exercise from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
The aircraft can operate at altitudes up to 40,000ft and accommodate as many as 116 fully-equipped troops, vehicles, helicopters (including a Chinook) or combinations of vehicles, pallets and personnel, up to a payload of 37 tonnes.
A spokesman for Pembrey Airport said at the time: “From time to time the RAF have training exercises here to train their pilots to land on the beach.
“They probably carry out training exercises down here about five times a year.”
Huge military aircraft flying low over Swansea before circling over Carmarthen Bay
A massive military plane was spotted over Swansea before repeatedly circling over Carmarthen Bay in October.
Tracking data from the website Flight Radar 24 showed the Airbus A400M Atlas started its 200-mile round trip at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, which is the largest airfield of the RAF.
Its flight path was quite bizarre as it got to Pembrey and circled a number of times over Carmarthen Bay before heading back the way it came.
Although the flight path of the aircraft looks a little unusual the route taken was part of a low-level flying training exercise.