RAF aircraft was flown 330 miles for Boris Johnson photoshoot

PM pictured next to patrol plane flow down from north of Scotland to Lincolnshire

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 01 March 2022 17:33 GMT
Related video: Boris Johnson says picture in Ukraine continues to be ‘very grim’

A Royal Air Force aircraft travelled 330 miles from a base in Scotland for a photoshoot with Boris Johnson, before flying back.

Pictures of the prime minister with RAF aircraft made some of the front pages about the Ukraine crisis on Friday, following his visit to the Waddington base in Lincolnshire on Thursday.

An RAF P-8A Poseidon – which Mr Johnson was pictured standing in front of – was flown a distance of more than 330 miles from its base in Lossiemouth, Moray.

The plane, a maritime patrol aircraft designed for anti-submarine warfare, departed from its base shortly before 9am on Wednesday, the Press Association reported.

It then flew back on Thursday, leaving at about 6.20pm, after the prime minister completed his visit to the base. It had never previously visited the Waddington base.

Mr Johnson was also pictured with his thumbs up sitting in a RAF Typhoon fast jet, which was flown from its home base of RAF Coningsby, which is 15 miles away from RAF Waddington.

Both the Typhoon Mr Johnson was pictured sitting in, and the P-8A Poseidon were flown back to their respective bases after his visit.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said the aircraft undertook training flights before and after the prime minister’s visit.

“This enabled a small number of aircraft to be used to demonstrate how the RAF defends the UK and our Nato allies across Europe,” the spokesperson told Sky News. “At no point did this impact on any ongoing operations.”

Speaking to reporters at the base, the PM said he was visiting to “talk to some of our crew, the officers who are involved in very, very important intelligence-gathering and surveillance”.

Mr Johnson added: “Some of the planes here today are going to be used very shortly over the border in Belarus, in Poland, and elsewhere over Ukraine, to see what’s going on and to allow us to have even finer detail evaluation of the military dispositions there.”

Boris Johnson next to RAF P-8A Poseidon plane at RAF Waddington base (PA)

Meanwhile, the latest government spending documents show that Mr Johnson’s flights on the RAF Voyager four-day trip to the US in September cost just over £365,000.

A group of 45 officials accompanied the PM on his trip on the plane – dubbed “the Brexit jet” after a £900,000 red, white and blue paint job in 2020 – so he could appear at the UN General Assembly and meet president Joe Biden.

It has also emerged that the government spent £125,000 on climate minister Alok Sharma’s flight to China ahead of the Cop26 conference, as part of his push to get Beijing to sign up to carbon-cutting measures.

A specially-chartered plane for the Cop26 president and his staff cost £125,000, while another £18,000 was spent on accommodation, meals and visas during the September trip, The Sun first reported.

The latest government spending documents show Mr Sharma and his team also used specially-charted flights to go to Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda and Barbados for pre-Cop26 talks in July – at the cost of £24,000.

Mr Sharma’s flights raised eyebrows last year when it emerged on the eve of the big climate summit in Glasgow that he had taken flights to more than 30 countries – with opposition politicians accusing him of being “hypocritical” about carbon reduction.

A government spokesperson said they would be offsetting all carbon emissions associated with the running of Cop26 in Glasgow – including ministerial travel.

“Ahead of the summit, the Cop president travelled to key countries for face-to-face meetings which are vital to ensuring success in climate negotiations and crucial to understanding first-hand the opportunities and challenges other countries are facing in the fight against climate change,” said the spokesperson.

Last month The Independent revealed that foreign secretary Liz Truss flew by private jet to Australia for talks at an estimated cost of over £500,000, rather than using scheduled flights.

Although critics said the move was a “grotesque misuse” of public money, Ms Truss said the government-chartered plane was available “precisely so that government ministers can travel”.

The Independent has contacted No 10 for comment.

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