The Queen may or may not have been amused, but those in charge of security must have been thankful she was not at home to receive the visit of James Miller, a 30-year-old American paragliding fanatic who calls himself 'Fan Man' and is famous for his flying escapades.
Mr Miller last made headlines when he parachuted in similar style on to the open-air world heavyweight boxing match between Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield in Las Vegas last November.
He injured several people while landing and was beaten unconscious by members of the audience. Yesterday he received an equally firm, but less violent reception, being arrested at once.
Mr Miller was spotted just before 7.30am flying from the direction of Blackfriars Bridge, in the centre of the city, over the West End and along the Mall before circling Buckingham Palace several times. Despite the early morning chill, he was only partly dressed in a red jump-suit.
He landed on the north-east roof overlooking the palace garden and was arrested within a couple of minutes by police, but not before taking the rest of his clothes off to reveal that he was painted green from the waist down.
Questions of royal security were immediately raised. Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, denied there had been a breach, while the BBC's diplomatic correspondent suggested that probably the only way to prevent such incidents was to install anti-aircraft guns on the palace turrets. The Prime Minister, John Major, was sent a report on the incident.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the Queen, who was at Sandringham, her estate in Norfolk, had been told of the incident. There were no members of the royal family in the palace at the time.
Mr Miller was flying a powered paraglider, which has a top speed of about 30mph. It is illegal to fly them in Britain.
Pat Hagan, a construction worker, saw the glider approach the palace. 'He was a lean, hardy-looking guy, stripped to the waist, and was shouting abuse at the police,' he said.
'He managed to stay up there for about five minutes and raised his arms in a sort of victory salute. It's quite possible he was doing it for a bet.'
Dirk Bosman, from Johannesburg, South Africa, who was waiting with his mother, Hettie, to watch the changing of the guard, said: 'It just shows that anything can happen. How would they stop a plane coming into the palace?'
Yesterday's landing was one of the most bizarre entries into the Queen's home. The most serious was when Michael Fagan broke into the royal apartments in 1982 and managed to get into the Queen's bedroom as she slept.
In July last year a group of women anti-nuclear protesters used ladders to climb the walls, cut barbed wire and got within yards of the royal apartments before armed officers arrived.
Mr Miller, a technician from Henderson, Nevada, who runs a paragliding school in Los Angeles, has built up a reputation for his attention-grabbing aerial feats.
After the Holyfield/Bowe episode he was charged with dangerous flying, which carries a maximum prison sentence of six months and a pounds 6,700 fine.
He was arrested last month after circling above the Los Angeles Coliseum during the American football play-off between the LA Raiders and Denver Broncos. He threatened a similar intervention at the Super Bowl, the climax of the American football season last weekend, but did not appear.
Mr Miller was yesterday using a powered paraglider, which although popular in Germany and France, has not been licensed in Britain. The glider has a canopy made of toughened nylon or polyester which inflates to form a 'wing' when whipped forward into the wind. It can be launched from a hilltop or tall building and is very manoeuvrable . The wing is operated by control strings.
The pilot also wears a harness with a small petrol engine attached to it with a hand throttle. With a full tank the glider can remain in the air for up to three hours, providing there are no strong winds. It costs from pounds 5,000.
Earlier this week police unsuccessfully pursued a man flying a paraglider who 'buzzed' an FA Cup tie between Bolton and Arsenal.
A man will appear at Bow Street magistrates court in London tomorrow charged in connection with the paragliding incident.
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