Millionaire fined for landing private plane at RAF base without permission to enjoy day at beach

Millionaire businessman, 60, is fined GBP4,000 for landing his private plane at Prince William’s former RAF base in north Wales without permission after flying 300 miles from Surrey to enjoy day at beach

  • Court heard Richard Wood flew from Surrey to fighter pilot training base, Wales
  • The millionaire businessman had not obtained permission to land at RAF base
  • ‘Arrogant’ 60-year-old wanted to take GBP2m aircraft to Anglesey to see the beach
  • Wood, of Chelsea, London, admitted the offences and was fined GBP3,400, ordered to pay GBP750 costs and a GBP190 surcharge and told he must pay within 28 days 

By Katie Feehan For Mailonline

Published: 16:45, 20 January 2021 | Updated: 17:11, 20 January 2021

A millionaire businessman was today fined more than GBP4,000 for flying his private plane into Prince Williams’s former military airfield – so he could enjoy a day at the beach.

Richard Wood, 60, stepped out of the GBP2milllion jet in sunglasses and shorts when he landed at RAF Valley in Anglesey during lockdown in May last year.

A court heard ‘arrogant’ GBP375,000-a-year Wood initially planned on flying to visit his elderly mother in Yorkshire after leaving his GBP4m Chelsea home.

But he instead flew his 12-seater Pilatus PC-12 almost 300 miles from Fairoaks Airfield in Surrey to the closed military base in Wales for the lockdown trip to the seaside.

Prosecutor Elizabeth Dudley-Jones said Wood landed at the base – where Prince William was based with his RAF Sea King team – on a Bank Holiday Monday despite not having permission from the controllers in the tower.

She said: ‘The aircraft N412MD took off from Fairoak Airport near Woking in Surrey and the pilot Richard Wood had sought and been given permission to fly from the airport and had stated his intention was to fly to Yorkshire and back that day.

A businessman – named as Richard Charles Priestley Wood of London, – has been accused of illegally landing a GBP2m private plane at Prince William’s former RAF base because he wanted ‘to go to the beach’ during lockdown. (Above, the plane after it landed at the base last May)

‘Ordinarily when RAF Valley is open civil aircraft will be expected but permission must be obtained 24 hours prior to arrival.

‘On 25 May 2020 the airfield was closed and a NOTAM had been issued to that affect.

‘The airfield was closed due to it being a public holiday and requests for civil aircraft to land at RAF Valley had been refused and there was no air traffic control available.

‘In any event there was a ban on civil aircraft landing due to Covid-19 restrictions and military aircraft landing themselves were severely restricted.’

Miss Dudley-Jones, representing the Civil Aviation Authority, said fire officer Keith Roberts saw the plane above the base and assumed it was ‘in distress and this was an emergency’.

She said: ‘He raised the alarm and fire crews were deployed.’

Pictured: Richard Wood, 60, on the steps of the plane after landing at RAF Valley, Anglesey

The keen amateur pilot flew 300 miles from Surrey to the fighter pilot training base at RAF Valley (pictured) in Anglesey, Wales. He was arrested by military police after he touched down

When the Pilatus plane touched down on the runway fire crews parked up alongside it and Mr Roberts indicated to Wood to shut down the engine and exit the ‘expensive’ plane.

She said: ‘The pilot was a white man around 6ft 6ins and somewhat thin.

He was dressed in shorts, a thin kagool jacket and glasses and short greying hair.

‘Mr Roberts asked him why he had made the unscheduled landing at RAF Valley and the pilot replied: ‘I wanted to see the beach’.

‘Mr Roberts told him he landed at a military airfield and without authorisation but the pilot said he called the tower numerous times without reply.

‘The pilot was asked where he had come from and he replied ‘London’.

‘When Mr Roberts told him Covid-19 restrictions were in place in Wales the pilot replied ‘it’s ok I had Covid-19 two months ago.

‘Mr Roberts described his attitude as initially flippant and arrogant but it changed when he realised the seriousness of the situation.’

RAF police were dispatched and Wood was asked to remain at the base until the airfield reopened the next morning so he could obtain proper permission to leave.

Pilot set off from Fairoaks Airfield in London to Anglesey in the Swiss-made 12-seater with the plan of a Bank Holiday day out at the beach but landed at RAF base without permission

However, the court heard Wood chose to fly out just an hour after landing. 

He had also explained later that he had recently moved back to Britain from Canada and he took his responsibilities as a pilot ‘seriously.’

Caernarfon Magistrates heard Wood was the owner of the Swiss-built 12-seater plane that was registered through a US company.

The court heard he initially planned on flying to Yorkshire to visit his elderly mother but changed plans and headed to Wales after she told him she was ‘busy’.

The court heard he had more than 2,200 hours of flying experience and held licences in Canada and the United States.

 The prosecutor said he hadn’t educated himself on UK flight procedures before making his mistake and ‘missed various clues.’

Wood admitted illegally landing and taking off from the base.

He did not attend the hearing and was not represented but the court heard he had an annual income of GBP375,000 and more than GBP1million in savings.

The Duke of Cambridge spent three years at base in Anglesey between 2009 and 2013 where he worked as a search and rescue helicopter pilot. (Above, Prince William at the base in 2011)

In a letter to the court he said: ‘I have learned from this experience, have taken many hours of training and flight testing since this day and now have my full UK licence.’

He described himself as ‘an experienced pilot who sees flying as a great privilege to be taken seriously.’

Wood, of Chelsea, London, was fined GBP3,400 and ordered to pay GBP750 costs and a GBP190 surcharge and told he must pay within 28 days.

Magistrates chair Alastair Langdon said: ‘These were very serious offences.’

Security is tight at the base which is home to the No 4 Flying Training School which trains fighter pilots and crew for maritime operations.

The Duke of Cambridge spent three years at the base in Anglesey, North Wales, between 2009 and 2013, where he worked as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.

He completed his last shift at the base in September 2013 almost two months after wife Kate Middleton gave birth to son Prince George.  

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