Planespotting & The Mach Loop

F15 Eagle passing planespotters on Cader East viewpoint by Delwyn Ellis
F15 Eagle passing planespotters on Cader East viewpoint by Delwyn Ellis

If you come to stay at Isfryn, it's quite likely you'll see the odd low flying Military plane go past. We're on what's known locally as The Mach Loop, a circular low-flying loop between Machynlleth and Dolgellau that's part of a wider North Wales low-flying training area.

Planes only fly in good weather during weekdays, so maybe only twice a week on average. Here's a little guide to what you may see flying past. If you miss one coming past, you might want to stay outside - they often fly in pairs or more, and regularly will do a couple of loops, returning past in about 5 minutes.

The planes are restricted to a minimum height of only 250ft, and the helicopters almost to treetop level at 100ft.

If you want to drive to the best viewpoints we can give you directions.

Many thanks to members of the Mach Loop Facebook group for offering so many photos. Those below are taken by the very talented Delwyn Ellis, Tom Davies, Brad Pearson, Andrew Rew Davies & Michael Arthy. If you're a fan of planes, we recommend checking out some of the stunning photos available to buy from members of the group.


Beechcraft Texan II Trainer

The most common plane in the loop nowadays is the Beechcraft Texan II,  a two-seater propeller-driven basic trainer used by the RAF and Navy. They're mainly based in RAF Valley on Anglesey, where they're used to train pilots moving onto jet fighters and other aircraft. They are capable of over 300mph.

Texan II by Thomas Davies
Texan II by Thomas Davies

Hawk T2

The Hawk is the RAF's & Navy's advanced jet trainer, most famously flown by the Red Arrows (who fly a slightly different variant). Although the Red Arrows do occasionally fly through, most of the Hawks seen on the Mach Loop come from RAF Valley on Anglesey. The Hawk can exceed Mach 1 in a dive, allowing trainee pilots to experience supersonic flight.

Hawk T2 by Michael Arthy
Hawk T2 by Michael Arthy

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle

The noisiest plane in the Loop is the USAF F-15 Eagle fighter. These big twin-tail fighters can make quite a racket, particularly when manoeuvring hard in the tight Welsh valleys - luckily, they're quieter here at Aberangell than on the sharp turn at Dinas Mawddwy further up the valley. They don't push anywhere near their impressive Mach 2 maximum speed on the Loop.

F15 Eagle by Brad Pearson
F15 Eagle by Brad Pearson

Lockheed Martin F35 Lightning

The Lockheed Martin F35 Lightning II is the RAF & USAF's newest multirole fighter, and is increasingly common to see in the Loop. At first glance it's very similar to the F15 with it's twin tail, but you can tell it apart by it's single engine, and outward-canted vertical ailerons - also it's a lot quieter!

F35 by Brad Pearson
F35 by Brad Pearson

C-130 Hercules Transport

The four-engined C-130 Hercules Transport is another regular visitor to the Mach Loop. It often flies with the rear load bay doors open, with the crew sitting dangling their feet out the back.It is the longest continuously produced military aircraft ever, having been made for over 60 years.

C-130 Hercules by Brad Pearson
C-130 Hercules by Brad Pearson

V22 Osprey Transport

The Bell-Boeing V22 Osprey is one of the more unusual  aircraft we get through the Loop. The Osprey is a propeller-driven tiltrotor aircraft, capable of vertical take-off and landing. They are easily identifiable by their twin engines with enormous propellers

V22 Osprey by Brad Pearson
V22 Osprey by Brad Pearson

Airbus A400M Transport

The biggest plane to visit the loop regularly is the Airbus A400M. This whopper of a transport aircraft, dwarfs the smaller Hercules and is able to carry twice the payload. Seeing a plane this size turning hard at 300ft is quite a sight!

A400 by Andy Rew Davies
A400 by Andy Rew Davies

And finally:

If you're wondering what it might be like to barrel through the Mach Loop in one of these planes at 500mph and pulling up to 8G then have a look at this YouTube Video: