The Mail On Sunday is clearly short of stories for its front page lead today, and so has decided to press a few of those dependable readers’ buttons: Royalty combined with air safety,and the supposed menace of drones. Thus the headline “WILLIAM’S HELICOPTER SPLIT SECOND FROM LETHAL DRONE CRASH … Security fears after Prince’s air ambulance in near-miss drama”. Sounds bad - and the online version sounds worse.
“Wills cheats death: Prince's helicopter horror as a lethal drone comes within HALF A SECOND of his air ambulance in dramatic near-miss - but was it reckless or deliberate?” gasps the clearly horrified headline writer, before telling readers “The terrifying incident happened at 1,900ft while flying over a McDonald’s”. Do go on.
“Prince William’s air ambulance has come within half a second of a catastrophic mid-air collision with a remote-controlled drone … Medics on board reacted with horror when they spotted the device within feet of potentially downing their helicopter … An official report, seen by The Mail on Sunday, said that ‘a collision had only been narrowly avoided’ and disaster was averted by pure ‘chance’”. And there’s more.
“Last night aviation experts said the drone could have downed the helicopter, killing those on board and potentially causing more casualties on the ground … The report reveals that the terrifying near-miss happened at 1,900ft when the helicopter, with three medical staff and two pilots on board, was flying almost directly over a McDonald’s restaurant filled with families”. Really? Might it have hit the McDonald’s, then?
“It was flying at 138mph, covering 200ft a second, and the drone was less than 100ft away - making it half a second from impact”. So even if the drone had collided with the helicopter, and actually done more than bounce off it, the aircraft would have been well away from the McDonald’s when it fell out of the sky, although, as the incident happened over a built-up area in north-east London (the aircraft was passing between Enfield and Woodford, following the River Lea going north) the potential for other civilian casualties was ever-present. And then it gets a lot worse for the MoS.
Let’s take this nice and slowly. One, the Mail on Sunday and its sister daily title are in the vanguard of kicking Prince William for not working hard enough - now they are trying to suggest it’s too risky for him to be working at all. Two, the “official report, seen by the Mail on Sunday” is publicly available on the Web (you can see it HERE). and Three, what was that small item in the sub-heading that gives the game away?
Here it comes: “The Duke of Cambridge regularly pilots Anglia Two but was not on board”. Wait, what? Yes, “The Duke of Cambridge regularly pilots the helicopter, codenamed Anglia Two, but it was only by fluke that he was not on board at the time. He was at the controls of the aircraft just days later”. HE WAS NOT ON BOARD.
So it was no surprise that “Wills cheats death”, because he wasn’t there. As I said, the MoS was short of front page stories today, so it had to get something off the web, and apply plenty of creative spin. And readers should pay money for that.