Mach Loop - An Introduction
Low flying is an essential skill for military aircrew, and the Royal Air Force uses various areas of the United Kingdom for low level flight training. The United Kingdom is split into 18 low flying areas, (or "LFAs"), the LFA's being numbered 1-19 (strangley there is no LFA15). The Ministry of Defence website has a map showing the location of the low fly areas. The Mach Loop is located within LFA7, which covers the whole of Wales, except for a small section in the north-east of Powys, which is within LFA9.
Located in Wales. the Mach Loop is formed by valleys which run between Dolgellau (pronounced 'Dol-geth-lie') in the north, Tal-y-Llyn in the west, Machylleth (pronounced 'Mah-hunth-leth') in the south and Dinas Mawddwy in the East. The Mach Loop is regularly used by the RAF, USAF and occassionally other foreign airforces for low level training.
Located south of the Mach Loop there is Tactical Training Area 7T, in which, at certain times, the aircraft may fly as low as 100 feet . A timetable is published showing when TTA7T is scheduled to be in use, however this appears to be of no use as experience shows the scheduled dates in that imetable bear no resemblance to reality.
The area of the Mach Loop is shown on the INTERACTIVE Google Map map to the right. The markers on the map show the main car parks, viewing areas, accomodation and other points of interest. Click a marker on the map for more information. You may need to zoom the map to see all the markers.
Key to markers (clicking an icon below toggles the display of that marker type):
- - Camping / B&B / Bunkhouse
- - Accommodation
- - Route Marker
- - Walking route
- - Parking
- - Viewing position
- - Restaurant / Takeaway
- - Supermarket
- - Toilets
You can remove or show all markers on thr map by clicking the icons below :
- - Remove all Markers
- - Show all Markers
If you have a Garmin or TomTom Satnav, you can download points of interest files for the Mach Loop.
Where to go in the Mach Loop
Within the Mach Loop, there are a number of places where the low flying aircraft are forced close enough to the hillside to make it possible to obtain frame filling photographs. They are :
- The Bwlch;
- The Bwlch Exit (detailed info coming soon);
- CAD West;
- CAD East;
- Corris Corner (detailed info coming soon);
- The Spur (detailed info coming soon); and
- Bluebell Hill (detailed info coming soon).
What will I see?
Firstly, it should be pointed out that it is quite possible to see no low flying aircraft on a visit to the Mach Loop. Unfortunately the volume of traffic has steadily reduced over the last few years, and it is now all too common to have a blank day. Having said that, a wide variety of aircraft do use the loop, the most likely to be seen being RAF Hawks from 19 and 208 Squadron, based at RAF Valley on Anglesey, and Harrier, Tornado GR4, Typhoon and U.S. Airforce F15E's.
Less common, but also possible to see are Tucano, Grob tutors, visiting foreign airforce jets, and helicopters. There are also the occasional historical aircraft seen in the loop, such as the Newcastle Jet Provost and Strikemasters.
What equipment do I need?
Take a look at our Equipment page.