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DESPERATELY SEA KING ALEX; Navy pilots waste pounds 10,000 popping in to see old pal.

A ROYAL NAVY helicopter crew has been accused of wasting pounds 10,000 of taxpayers' cash after landing on a Scottish island for a kickabout on the beach.

Islanders watched as the Sea King touched down on Colonsay, owned by Alex Howard, son of former Tory Defence Secretary Lord Strathcona.

The helicopter, which costs around pounds 5000-an-hour to fly, landed in a field beside Howard's 30-bedroom mansion, Colonsay House.

The crew spent Wednesday afternoon playing on the beach and enjoying a barbeque with Howard, a former Naval pilot.

One local said: "They came here like Biggles and Co. to see their pal. The helicopter was still there on Thursday so they stayed the night. Surely taxpayers should not be paying thousands of pounds for them to have a day out .

"You'd have thought the son of a former Defence Secretary would know better." The pounds 4.5million Sea King is part of a nine-strong rescue fleet from HMS Gannet at Prestwick. Howard is still attached as a reserve officer.

The Sunday Mail was given differing explanations for the visit. The MoD in London said:

"It's an annual public relations event. They fly over there and have a barbecue and some games." But HMS Gannet told us: "It was a search-and-rescue exercise and they happened to stop off on Colonsay.

"It's not any kind of official annual event but I would have thought the islanders would have been reassured the helicopter was able to get there in emergencies."
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Author:Findlay, Russell
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 27, 2000
Words:247
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