The Mach Loop is a set of valleys, located between Dolgellau in the north, and Machynlleth, from where the Mach Loop gets its name, in the south, which are used regularly for low altitude training flights, with flying to heights as low as 250 feet/76 metres from the nearest terrain.
If you want a great adrenalin kick, and the absolute chance to get some fantastic photographs, then the Mach Loop it is. It’s great and absolutely stunning to spectate the aircraft as they fly through the twists and turns of Snowdonia. Both the Royal Air Force and United States Air Force use the Mach Loop and the aircraft that regularly fly this area include Tornados, Typhoons, Hawks and F-15E Strike Eagles.
Low level flying
Low level flying is a highly valued and vital skill for military air crew, and the Royal Air Force uses several areas of the United Kingdom for low level flight training. The United Kingdom is split into 18 different low flying areas, or also known as “LFAs”, the LFA’s being numbered 1-19 (Strangely there is no LFA15). The Ministry of Defence MoF website has a map pictures below showing the location of the low fly areas. The Mach Loop is located within LFA7, which covers the whole area of Wales, except for a minor small section in the north-east area of Powys, which is within LFA9.
First of all – I’d like to thank Mark Jayne from MJA Aviation to allow us to embed the great maps below.
Bwlch viewing area. Map by Mark Jayne – www.mjaviation.co.uk
The Bwlch is located approximately five miles east of Dolgellau on the A470 road to Dinas Mawddwy. When looking down the valley from the main viewing location one can get a jaw dropping view of the aircraft as they snake their way through the twists and turns of this narrow valley. The jets usually fly in from the eastern area and can either turn left towards the Cad pass, straight on for Dolgellau or turn right and head up towards Bala.
Type of images able to shoot – Topside or level pass
Height of destination: Top Ledge 420ft. Lower Ledge 240ft.
Cad East sits in the shadow of the massive Cadair Idris at the beginning of the Tall-Y-llyn valley. From the top of Cadair Idris it’s possible to view all the way to Snowdon and towards Bala so approaching aircraft can be seen very crisply. There is an access road that runs up through the back of Cad East which does have limited spaces for parking.
Type of images able to shoot – Belly shots, head on, level pass
Height of destination: 420ft
Corris Corner is situated in the south west end of the Tall-Y-llyn pass, almost above the lake. From here the aircraft have just two options, they can either keep going straight over the lake or turn to a sharp left and follow the valley to Corris offering lovely topside views with the sun behind you, meaning a clear, crisp shot is possible. Take note, this location is fairly tricky in the late afternoons due to the sun being directly in front of you especially during the winter days.
There are a few more locations in Wales, including Heartbreak Hill which is situated in between the Bala and Dolgellau valley, the A5 Pass which flies over Lake Ogwen, and the Dyfi Valley which is a new-ish location north east of Dinas village. Another location is BlueBell hill which is located just east of the Bwlch.
Type of images able to shoot – Topside
Height of destination: 330ft
Bluebell sits nice and deep in the valley viewing up towards the Bwlch locations. There is a layby close to the parking area, in which has ample space. Jets approach from Dinas from the right at a significant speed, but give very little notice on their arrival. Lighting can be a little difficult at times but when it’s good it really can be the place to be.
Type of images able to shoot – Side on or dipped wings
Height of destination: 320ft (Steep climb)
Additional Readings and Links –
- The Art Of Mid Air Selfies
- United States Air Force looking to turn on to Supersonic Mercenaries
- Learn more about the nice work of Mark Jayne on MJA Aviation
Author – Jake Meilak