A millionaire businessman was fined more than £4,000 for illegally flying his private plane into Welsh airfield – so he could enjoy a day at the beach during lockdown.
Richard Wood, 60, stepped out of the £2milllion jet in sunglasses and shorts when he landed at RAF Valley in Anglesey.
A court heard “arrogant” £375,000-a-year Wood initially planned on flying to visit his elderly mother in Yorkshire after leaving his £4m Chelsea home.
But he instead flew almost 300 miles from Fairoaks Airfield in Surrey to the closed military base in Wales for a trip to the seaside during lockdown.
Prosecutor Elizabeth Dudley-Jones said Wood landed at the base 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.
“Ordinarily when RAF Valley is open civil aircraft will be expected but permission must be obtained 24 hours prior to arrival.
“On May 25, 2020 the airfield was closed and a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) had been issued to that effect.
“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.”
When the 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 okay 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.”
Wood was asked to remain at the base until the airfield reopened the next morning so he could obtain proper permission to leave but chose to fly out just an hour after landing.
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.
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 £375,000 and more than £1million in savings.
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 £3,400 and ordered to pay £750 costs and a £190 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 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.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk