Amid lockdown, pilot lands at RAF base to “see the beach”

Robert Underwood

A British court fined a 60-year-old pilot, Richard Wood, for flying in and out of a closed Royal Air Force airbase.

The incident took place on May 25, 2020. The pilot departed from Fairoaks general aviation airport, in Surrey, and landed his Pilatus PC-12, registered N412MD, on the runway of Royal Air Force Valley airbase. The aircraft was met with fire and rescue vehicles, as the military personnel at the location were expecting an emergency landing. 

However, Wood explained to the soldiers that he had planned to visit the beach near the base. Informed that the aerodrome was closed and that Wales was under strict COVID-19 travel restrictions, the pilot went back into his aircraft and took off.

“This was a case of poor pre-flight planning. A routine check would have shown Mr. Wood that  RAF Valley was closed”, explained Alison Slater, Head of the Investigations and Enforcement Team at the UK Civil Aviation Authority. “There were safety implications, and, fortunately, not more of a serious outcome.”

Caernarfon Magistrates Court charged Wood with two offenses for trespassing RAF Valley Aerodrome Traffic Zone without permission and gave him a fine of £3,400.

RAF Valley on Anglesey, northwestern England, houses the No. 4 Flying Training School, where British fighter pilots receive their basic formation on BAE Hawk T2 trainer jets.


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