THE Prince of Wales last night brushed off the royal air scare on

Islay, where the jet he piloted skidded into a ditch on landing, with

the words: ''It was not quite a crash.''

Prince Charles told children when he visited Bowmore secondary school:

''We went off the end of the runway. It's not something I recommend

happening all the time, but unfortunately it did.''

The incident happened at lunchtime when the Prince's aircraft overshot

the runway, blew a tyre and ended up in a ditch at Islay airport. There

were 11 people on board the plane which had left Aberdeen earlier.

No-one was injured.

The Prince, apparently unshaken, nonchalantly continued with his

engagements on the island -- including a tour of the Laphroaig whisky


Witnesses said his aircraft, a four-engine BAe 146 of the Queen's

flight, had approached the runway very rapidly and the Prince had been

lucky to escape injury.

Rachel Whyte, whose house overlooks the airfield, said: ''It was a bad

touchdown -- he should have touched down much closer to the sea. He

started to brake, and he must have really jammed them on because the

tyres were smoking badly.''

She described how, as the plane came to the end of the runway right up

to the perimeter fence, it had swerved full circle, and she had heard a

loud bang as the tyre blew.

''We really thought the plane would go because it looked so bad. He

was lucky, very, very lucky,'' she added.

An RAF spokesman insisted that only one of the aircraft's tyres had

burst but some eye-witnesses said as many as three of the six tyres had

deflated in the incident.

The momentum of the plane caused the nosewheel undercarriage to

collapse as it reached the end of the 5000ft asphalt runway. The

starboard main wheels also sank into soft ground at the end of the

runway as it slew round before coming to a standstill.

An RAF Hercules is to fly to Islay today with engineers and

heavy-lifting gear to help recover the aircraft which is mired at the

end of the runway, which will be out of use until the it has been taken

away for examination.

A helicopter of the Queen's flight was sent to Islay last night to

pick up the Prince and fly him to Glasgow where he met with another BAe

146 aircraft which took him back to southern England.

A full investigation has now been launched by Ministry of Defence

officials to establish the exact cause of the accident.

Meanwhile the Prince continued his royal engagements today. This

morning he attends the centenary celebrations of London's Tower Bridge.

Tomorrow, the Prince starts a three-day visit to Wales during which he

will mark the 25th anniversary of his investiture as Prince of Wales and

carry out several low-key engagements.