Royals fly in despite copter scare

A LAST-minute safety scare did not prevent the Queen and Prince Philip flying into Ipswich by helicopter today.The royal helicopter is a Sikorsky S-76, identical to the Bristow-owned machine involved in last night's tragedy 25 miles off Great Yarmouth.

By Paul Geater

A LAST-minute safety scare did not prevent the Queen and Prince Philip flying into Ipswich by helicopter today.

The royal helicopter is a Sikorsky S-76, identical to the Bristow-owned machine involved in last night's tragedy 25 miles off Great Yarmouth.

Investigators were today starting to look into the cause of last night's accident – which happened so quickly that the aircraft was unable to make a distress call. The alarm was raised by workers on a gas rig, who saw the helicopter come down in the sea.

Mechanical failure has not been ruled out, and Bristow helicopters have grounded their fleet based at Norwich Airport for full mechanical checks.

But Buckingham Palace was confident about the safety of the Queen's helicopter and the royal couple flew as planned into Alexandra Park before being driven to the Waterfront area of Ipswich for their 70-minute tour there.

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The royal party was then being driven to Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds before being picked up again by the helicopter and being flown to the Queen's Norfolk residence, Sandringham.

There were contingency plans in case it was foggy – in which case the royal couple would have been driven to Alexandra Park for the start of the tour. But despite the tragedy, palace officials went ahead with the helicopter flight.

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