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04 January 2008

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His Royal Highness Prince William is to start flying training with the RAF this month – fulfilling a personal ambition to learn to fly. An intensive four month flying course has been tailored to enable the Prince to reach Wings standard at RAF Cranwell as part of his familiarisation with all three services, which he will head once King.

The Prince will join a course of students undergoing flying training at the RAF’s College in Lincolnshire as the Service prepares to celebrate 90 years as an independent air force. He will be accommodated in similar quarters and follow the same intensive working day as the rest of his course. He will also spend part of his time training at RAF Linton-on-Ouse in Yorkshire and RAF Shawbury in Shropshire. During his training he will hold the rank of flying officer and be known as Flying Officer William Wales.

Sqn Ldr R Allison beside his Squirrel helicopter

Commandant of the RAF’s Central Flying School, Group Captain Nick Seward gave media a taste of the Prince’s training schedule at a briefing at RAF Cranwell. He said: “The four month attachment starts soon and during his time with us he will wear our uniform and rank. But he will remain under full command of the army throughout his attachment (Household Cavalry).

“The attachment is part of the wider programme of events designed to prepare FO Wales for his future role as head of the Armed Forces. He will start his training on 1 Sqn of 1 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) at RAF Cranwell learning to fly the RAF’s Tutor trainer, which is used to train all RAF pilots. Its side-by-side seating and handling characteristics make it an ideal first training aircraft.

Group Captain Nick Seward briefing the press

“Having completed the basic flying phase, FO Wales will move to 1 FTS at RAF Linton-on-Ouse where he will learn to fly the Tucano. A faster, more capable aircraft, the Tucano is used as a lead-in for all RAF fast jet pilots. Its handling is similar to that of a fast jet. The Tucano took over the role as fast jet trainer from the Jet Provost, which Prince William’s father Prince Charles flew as a student pilot in 1971.”

Flt Lt R Lees in the cockpit of his RAF Tucano

After successful completion of the Tucano course, FO Wales will move to RAF Shawbury and learn to fly the Squirrel helicopter. The Squirrel is used by all three services as their basic rotary trainer. The Prince will complete an intensive course designed to familiarise him with basic helicopter flying.

Because it is not intended that the Prince will fly specific operational aircraft, his course has been shortened to meet his needs, however if successful he will be awarded his RAF wings and a graduation ceremony has been planned for April – the month when the Service celebrates its 90th anniversary.

After graduation the Prince will be attached to several front line units including Support Helicopters, Search and Rescue, Air Transport and Fighter to gain further understanding of the use of air power.

Said Gp Capt Seward: “During his time with us FO Wales will be realising a personal ambition to learn how to fly and this will be the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the Royal Air Force. The RAF is very proud of its links with the Royal Family and all involved are looking forward to and are extremely excited by the project, as is Prince William – especially as he will be following in the footsteps of Prince Charles who undertook flying training here at RAF Cranwell in 1971.”

The aim over the next few months is to make Prince William’s flying training and introduction to the RAF as enjoyable as possible. He will be expected to fully integrate at work and socially and will not be given any preferential treatment. On completion he will understand the challenges of modern air power, the role and nature of the RAF and its relevance over the past 90 years and into the future.

Prince Charles during flying trainingCranwell’s association with aviation began during the First World War when the Royal Navy sought to establish a single unit at which officers and ratings could be trained to fly aeroplanes, observer kite balloons and airships. 2,500 acres of farmland were acquired by the Admiralty and hangars and grass airstrips were laid out. When the Royal Naval Air Service and the Army’s Royal Flying Corps merged on 1 April 1918, the college passed to the nascent Royal Air Force. The RAF College was opened in 1920 and today is the home of Initial Officer Training, Elementary Flying Training, Air Cadets, RAF marketing and recruitment and many other units.

Tutor Flying Instructor Sqn Ldr Roger Bousfield said: “I will be teaching the Prince how to fly both the Tutor and Tucano and feel very privileged. Obviously his requirements mean I will be taking him to a certain point rather than, as with other students, as far as possible. But the standards required to progress to the next stage have to be met whoever is the trainee pilot.”


Image 1: Shows Group Captain Nick Seward, Commandant of the RAF's Central Flying School, briefing media on Prince William's plans to learn to fly with the RAF.

Image 2: Shows Sqn Ldr Bousfield in front of the Tutor training aircraft.

Image 3: Shows Qualified Flying Instructor, Flt Lt Robbie Lees in the cockpit of his RAF Tucano fast jet trainer. Prince William will fly on the Tucano from RAF Linton-on Ouse in Yorkshire as part of his flying training.

Image 4: Prince Charles during flying training in 1971

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