'Arrogant' millionaire pilot landed at RAF base during lockdown to 'see the beach'

Andy Wells
Richard Charles Priestley Wood landed at RAF Valley to visit the beach during the coronavirus lockdown in May last year. (Reach)
Richard Charles Priestley Wood landed at RAF Valley to visit the beach during the coronavirus lockdown in May last year. (Reach)

A millionaire pilot sparked an investigation after he landed at an RAF airfield on Anglesey during a failed flight to see his mother in Yorkshire because she was too busy.

Richard Charles Priestley Wood, 60, was described as “flippant and arrogant” after he landed at RAF Valley to visit the beach during the coronavirus lockdown in May last year.

His actions sparked an incident involving fire engines and led to an investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) resulting in Wood accepting he wrongly assumed it was available and open 24/7.

The track taken from FlightRadar24 of an aircraft which took off from an airfield in Surrey, before flying to north Wales where the pilot landed without permission on a closed military runway at RAF Valley "because he wanted to go to the beach". (Photo by FlightRadar24/PA Images via Getty Images)
The track taken from FlightRadar24 of an aircraft which took off from an airfield in Surrey, before flying to north Wales where the pilot landed without permission on a closed military runway at RAF Valley "because he wanted to go to the beach". (Photo by FlightRadar24/PA Images via Getty Images)

Wood, of Crescent Place, Chelsea, London, did not attend Caernarfon Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty by post to landing at and departing from RAF Valley without permission.

Elizabeth Dudley Jones, representing the CAA, told the court that Wood flew from Fairoaks Airport in Woking, Surrey, on the bank holiday on 25 May last year.

The Pilatus PC12 plane which took off from Fairoaks airfield in Surrey before flying to north Wales where the pilot landed without permission on a closed military runway at RAF Valley "because he wanted to go to the beach". (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Pilatus PC12 plane which took off from Fairoaks airfield in Surrey before flying to north Wales where the pilot landed without permission on a closed military runway at RAF Valley "because he wanted to go to the beach". (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)

The prosecutor said Wood had sought and been given permission to fly to Yorkshire but along the way he contacted his mother and found she was “busy”, so he diverted to Anglesey.

Richard Wood's actions sparked an incident involving fire engines and led to an investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority. (Reach)
Richard Wood's actions sparked an incident involving fire engines and led to an investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority. (Reach)

RAF Valley was closed at the time, and a notice filed with the aviation authority had been issued to that effect “due to it being a bank holiday”.

The prosecutor said there was also a ban on civilian flights at RAF Valley to a small part of the airfield due to COVID-19 restrictions.

But she said that, at 11.45am that day, fire officer Keith Roberts saw an aircraft overflying the airfield.

Watch: The excuses people have been giving for breaking lockdown

At one point, its undercarriage was partly down and he decided it was an emergency and raised the alarm.

Radio records showed that Wood had called the RAF Valley tower at least seven times about landing but “unsurprisingly” there was no response from air traffic control because the airfield was closed.

The court heard that the British Army Military Provost guard service believed it was either an emergency or the aircraft had overshot nearby Mona Airfield.

Dudley Jones told the court that Wood was asked why he had made an unscheduled landing at RAF Valley.

She said: ”The pilot replied: 'I wanted to see the beach.’"

Dudley Jones said Roberts told Wood he had landed at a military airfield and was breaching COVID-19 restrictions, but he replied: "It’s OK. I had COVID-19 two months ago.”

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The court heard Wood appeared “flippant and arrogant” but that changed when he realised the seriousness of the situation.

Wood said he would have been OK if he'd landed at nearby Mona Airfield and that he wasn’t familiar with UK rules.

Wood pleaded guilty to flying within an aerodrome traffic zone without having obtained information to enable a safe flight and also taking off.

Richard Wood did not attend Caernarfon Magistrates Court (pictured) and pleaded guilty by post to landing at and departing from RAF Valley without permission. (Wikipedia)
Richard Wood did not attend Caernarfon Magistrates Court (pictured) and pleaded guilty by post to landing at and departing from RAF Valley without permission. (Wikipedia)

In a letter, Wood, who had 2,200 hours flying experience, said he had radioed the tower about his intentions, and that he flew over the airfield twice to check it was safe to land.

However, he accepted he should have found out if the airfield was open 24/7.

Magistrates court chairman Alastair Langdon fined Wood £1,700 for each of the two offences. He also ordered the defendant to pay the CAA’s £750 costs and a £190 victim surcharge.

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's third national lockdown

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