ONE of the world’s biggest military aircraft was spotted over the skies of Dorset last night, with parachutists seen plunging to the ground.

The Boeing C-17A Globemaster III was spotted by residents circling above Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole and east Dorset late on Monday, June 19.

According to global flight tracking service, Flight Radar 24, the plane left Brize Norton in Oxfordshire at 7.26pm before taking to the skies for several hours.

Areas between Boscombe and Wick in Christchurch were circled several times throughout the evening, according to the flight tracker.

Parachutists in formation were deployed as part of a military practice operation which included pilot training, visual and instrument circuits, as well as ‘touch and gos' at Bournemouth Airport.

Touch-and-go manoeuvres involve landing on a runway and taking off again without coming to a full stop.

A spokesman for the RAF told the Echo: “A C-17 Globemaster, from RAF Brize Norton, completed a routine training sortie in the Bournemouth area yesterday evening including approaches at Bournemouth Airport, such training ensuring that our crews continue to be ready for global operations.”

Bournemouth Echo: RAF parachutists landing as seen from the Poole areaRAF parachutists landing as seen from the Poole area (Image: Paul Alibone)

C-17 crews do a variety of training exercises across the UK varying routes and locations.

Hundreds of residents took to social media to discuss the activity, with many reporting how low the RAF aircraft flying was flying – a feat down to its design which enables high-angle, steep approaches at relatively slow speeds.

One man said: “[It] flew slowly over our house in Broadstone. Thought it was a plane coming into land but it headed across and then right and in the other direction where it came from. Very strange.”

Bournemouth Echo: The Globemaster III.The Globemaster III.

The activity was also discussed on a Reddit thread, with a user asking: “Anyone have any idea why the RAF is flying this chonk in circles overhead at 11pm? Not exactly quiet at 10,000 feet.”

A naval auxiliary ship was also spotted circling off the Dorset coast last night. RFA Tidesurge, a replenishment tanker of the British Royal Fleet Auxiliary, was in the area at around the same time the Globemaster took off from Brize Norton.

In addition, a United States military Globemaster III flew over parts of rural Dorset early on Tuesday morning and continued east before heading into mainland Europe.