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The 300-strong ParalympicsGB team flew back to Heathrow from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games on the same gold-nosed British Airways aircraft that flew Team GB home last month.

The athletes and support staff travelled on the ‘victoRIOus’ aircraft including medallists Sarah Storey, Will Bayley, Lee Pearson and Hannah Cockroft.

The aircraft carried 585 items of equipment, including archery tackle, racing chairs, tennis chairs, throwing frames, leg bags, prosthetic bags, running blades, fencing foils, paddle tubes, solo bikes and tandem bikes on the 11 hour 15 minute flight from Brazil. The heaviest piece of kit was a hand bike weighing 32kg.

Extra water, champagne, snacks and treats were loaded on board and passengers were given a three-course menu and full English breakfast before landing.

BA chairman and chief executive, Alex Cruz, said: “We are honoured to be part of such a special moment of national pride and celebration. It has been a privilege to fly the athletes home from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

“I’d also like thank everyone across the airline who worked tirelessly for months to deliver a truly memorable homecoming that Team GB and ParalympicsGB so rightly deserve.”

British Paralympic Association chief executive, Tim Hollingsworth, said: “The performance of ParalympicsGB at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games has surpassed our expectations.

“It is right that our athletes return to the UK proud of their achievements and are celebrated by our partner British Airways, flying them home in style. It is the perfect ending to an incredible two weeks.”

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