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First time post here, please let me know if more detail needed (and which tag would suit it best).

I live in Essex UK, in the evening normally see lights of planes on approach to the London airports.

This evening (29 August 2019) from 21:00 BST / 20:00 UTC I have seen lights of planes flying away from London in large numbers (at least 30 when I started paying attention).

They were in groups of about 5, then another group following not far behind. They appeared to be heading in an easterly direction away from London.

Could someone help to shed some light on this? Have lived in this area for 15 years and never seen anything like this.

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    $\begingroup$ Investors running away before Brexit? 😬 ;-) $\endgroup$ – yshavit Aug 29 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Aviation.SE! Would you say it looked like they were heading out over the Channel? If they went in groups of about 5, do you have an estimate of the amount of time between one group and the next? $\endgroup$ – Terran Swett Aug 29 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ If anything, I'd say they were heading away from the channel. The group spacing was really tight - they seemed to be only a few seconds apart (although distance from myself to them may have affected that?) $\endgroup$ – Brian Aug 29 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ Could you detail where you were, which direction you looked, which direction they went and whether you‘d estimate them higher or lower than the arrivals you normally see? $\endgroup$ – Cpt Reynolds Aug 29 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ at this time of evening, usually see 3 to 7 lining up to come in to land (east to west), fly over my house and then split off, presumably to get to Stanstead/City airports). Tonight they were flying from opposite direction and in really large numbers. $\endgroup$ – Brian Aug 29 at 21:09
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Nothing stands out on Flightradar24 for that time period by using the playback function. So most likely they're not civilian.

What I found was a military-related NOTAM via notaminfo.com/ukmap:

MIL EXER. MIL PARACHUTING AND HELICOPTER HOIST OPERATIONS WI 5NM
RADIUS 515900N 0012500E (BAWDSEY, SUFFOLK). FOR INFO 01638 545012.
2019-08-0649/AS3

FROM: 29 Aug 2019 18:30 GMT (19:30 BST) TO: 30 Aug 2019 00:30 GMT (01:30 BST)

The time matches if we account for padding, and the drop area would make them fly west to east to arrive at Bawdsey, depending on their base and your location.

If too concerned, you can trying calling the number quoted above.

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