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Philip gets bird's eye view of south coast from 'vertical pier in the sky'

Published 28/10/2016

Prince Philip will get a view from the top of the British Airways i360 attraction in Brighton
Prince Philip will get a view from the top of the British Airways i360 attraction in Brighton

The Duke of Edinburgh was treated to panoramic views of the south coast when he took a ride on the world's first vertical cable car during its official opening.

Philip glided skywards to a height of 450ft (138m) inside the British Airways i360's futuristic-looking, curved glass pod on Brighton seafront in East Sussex.

At the top, amid sunshine, he took in the 360-degree view across 26 miles (42km) of the south coast, from Bexhill in East Sussex to Chichester in West Sussex - and met the team behind the tower's design and creation.

He was shown the control room and the operating winch, and spent time speaking with the attraction's chairman, David Marks, vice-chair Julia Barfield and chief engineer Dr John Roberts before unveiling a plaque.

The structure opened on August 4 and is the world's tallest moving observation tower, standing where the wrecked Grade I-listed West Pier, built in 1866, joined the seafront promenade.

Designed by Marks Barfield Architects, the creators of the London Eye, the i360 holds the Guinness World Record for the globe's most slender tower with a diameter of 13ft (3.9m) at its widest point.

The attraction - dubbed a "vertical pier in the sky" - experienced some technical problems during the early days of its opening.

But there were no such glitches during the visit of Philip, who has a keen interest in design and engineering and is officially involved in more than 25 engineering institutions worldwide.

Mr Marks said: "Knowing the Duke of Edinburgh's love of engineering and innovation, we were absolutely delighted and honoured that he agreed to open British Airways i360 today, inspect the tower, its viewing pod and the technology that makes it work, and to meet key members of the engineering team and representatives of the community that made this engineering tour de force a reality."

The tower is built of 17 steel cans weighing around 900 tonnes which have been attached together, while the pod was crafted from 24 segments of handmade glass from Italy.

As the Duke arrived, a young girl handed him flowers and a card wishing him an enjoyable visit, and with the words: "I have been up and it was lovely."

Ms Barfield said: "The reason why we thought it would be a good idea to invite him here is because he has been a champion of design for 50 years.

"He is very passionate about the importance of good design. Even the sun rose for his visit here."

Flights on the attraction - which cost an estimated £46 million - depart every 30 minutes and can carry up to 200 passengers.

Mr Marks added: "Its design, engineering and method of construction are innovative, just as the West Pier was in its time.

"And just as the original pier invited Victorian society to 'walk on water', so British Airways i360 invites visitors to 'walk on air'."

Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive Geoff Raw said the official royal opening helped recognise the attraction as of "national importance" and a "popular engineering achievement".

The Duke went on to visit the Royal Marines School of Music at Portsmouth Naval Base to mark the 20th anniversary of the move to its current home.

In his role as Captain General of the Royal Marines, Philip cut a birthday cake celebrating the 352nd anniversary of the Corps of Royal Marines.

During a tour of the school, which moved to the Hampshire base from Deal in Kent in 1996, the Duke posed for a group photograph with the trainee musicians before speaking with some of them and their instructors and visiting the band service's memorial room.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Grace, principal director of music of the Royal Marines Band Service, said: "It has been a tremendous honour and privilege for the Royal Marines School of Music to host the Duke of Edinburgh, our Captain General.

"It's immensely significant because it's 20 years to the day since the Royal Marines School of Music was opened by his son Prince Edward. This is the first time the Duke has been able to visit us here in Portsmouth.

"It provided a terrific opportunity for our trainees to speak to His Royal Highness and for them to appreciate how military music has played an important role in his life and the esteem in which he holds the Royal Marines Band Service."

Musician Harry Yarnell, 19, from Dover, who plays clarinet and viola, said: "It was an unforgettable experience and a privilege to meet the Duke of Edinburgh.

"He was interested to know what led me to choosing a career in the Royal Marines Band Service, the training process at the school, how we develop as musicians and what the future holds."

Press Association

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