From British daily The Guardian:
The cost of William’s lift to the stag do? £8,716
Audrey Gillan and Rob Evans
Monday June 30, 2008
It must count as one of the most expensive stag-do taxis in history. Prince William‘s Chinook flight to attend his cousin’s pre-wedding celebrations on the Isle of Wight cost the taxpayer £8,716, the Ministry of Defence has disclosed.
The prince’s use of the twin-rotored helicopter became the focus of RAF ire after it emerged that he had dropped in at a wedding in Hexham, flown over his relatives’ homes and landed in his girlfriend’s parents’ garden.
Now the MoD has disclosed that five flights which have been the focus of the criticism cost the taxpayer more than £50,000. The ministry has revealed the price of each flight after a freedom of information request from the Guardian.
The RAF and royal aides initially sought to justify them as legitimate training flights, but later admitted that they were a “naive” public relations disaster and a “collective error of judgment”.
The first sortie took place on April 2 when Prince William flew the helicopter over his father‘s country home in Highgrove, Gloucestershire. The flight, which lasted nearly three hours, cost the taxpayer £ 11,985, according to the MoD.
The following day, the prince once again got behind the controls of the helicopter and this time headed off to Bucklebury, Reading. The MoD says he landed the helicopter on “private land” during what it described as a “general handling” training flight. That private land belonged to the parents of his girlfriend, Kate Middleton. The second in line to the throne is understood to have circled around the house at 300ft before touching down next to the house while Middleton and her parents watched.
At the time, the MOD defended the decision to land in the Middletons’ field, saying: “Battlefield helicopter crews routinely practise landing in fields and confined spaces away from their airfields as a vital part of their training for operations. These highly-honed skills are used daily in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan“.
But others criticised it as a frivolous waste of money at a time when the armed forces’ budget is stretched and questioned why a relative novice was allowed to fly a Chinook.
The MoD calculated the cost of the flight to be £ 8,716.
The next controversial flight took place a day later when he flew to Hexham in Northumberland. Conveniently, this was where he was a guest at a wedding. The four-hour flight – described by the MoD as “general handling and low level” training – cost £18,522.
His flight over the Queen’s Sandringham home on April 9 cost £ 4,358. His trip to the Isle of Wight on April 11 to attend the pre-wedding celebrations of his cousin, Peter Phillips, after stopping off in London to collect Prince Harry also cost £8,716, for the two hours he was on board the Chinook.
Prince William, an officer in the Household Cavalry Regiment, was on a four-month attachment with the RAF as part of a “familiarisation” exercise to understand all the military services as he will head the armed forces on becoming king. He spent 10 days learning how to fly a Chinook and was awarded his wings by his father in a ceremony at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire.
However wasteful of taxpayers’ money and of fuel all this is: contrary to flights in Iraq and Afghanistan, in this case there was no bloody waste of human lives.
British armed forces survey reveals morale crisis: here.