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UK

Prince William lands helicopter in girlfriend's garden

LONDON (Reuters) - Prince William landed a Royal Air Force helicopter in the garden of the parents of his girlfriend Kate Middleton but the Ministry of Defence defended his actions, saying he achieved essential training objectives.

Prince William (L) smiles as he walks with his girlfriend Kate Middleton at RAF Cranwell, central England April 11, 2008. Prince William landed a Royal Air Force helicopter in the garden of the parents of his girlfriend Kate Middleton but the Ministry of Defence defended his actions, saying he achieved essential training objectives. REUTERS/Michael Dunlea/Pool

The News of the World newspaper reported on Sunday the 25-year-old William, who is second in line to the throne, asked permission from his girlfriend’s parents to land at their Berkshire home due to a shortage of landing slots in Hampshire.

While aviation analyst and RAF-trained pilot Jon Lake told the News of the World the April 3 flight was “ridiculous and inappropriate”, the MOD said the two-hour training mission was fully authorised as part of William’s four-month RAF attachment.

“Battlefield helicopter crews routinely practice landing in fields and confined spaces away from their airfields as a vital part of their training for operations,” it said in a statement .

“These highly honed skills are used daily in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The Ministry said helicopter bases continually sought permission from land owners to use their fields and that there were only two fields permanently available in Hampshire.

“Opportunities to use alternatives are therefore regularly seized. The aircraft landed in the field, after taking all necessary safety precautions, and was on the ground for 20 seconds.

“No one got on or off the aircraft. This was very much a routine training sortie that achieved essential training objectives.”

William, the fourth successive generation of the monarchy to become an RAF pilot, received his Royal Air wings from his father Prince Charles on April 11 in a ceremony watched by Middleton.

Known as Flying Officer William Wales, he is due to start an attachment to the Royal Navy in June.

William broke up with his long-time girlfriend in April last year but they now appear to be firmly back together, sparking feverish speculation among royal watchers about the marriage plans of the eldest son of the late Princess Diana.

Reporting by John Joseph; Editing by Jodie Ginsberg

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