Prince William qualifies as search and rescue pilot

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Britain's Prince William graduated as a search and rescue helicopter pilot on Friday and said it would be an honour to start work at the controls.

The 28-year-old, who is second in line to the throne, will still carry out royal duties when he is not on the roster.

He graduated from his flying course on Friday and officially joined 22 Squadron, C Flight, where he will co-pilot Sea King Mk3 helicopters at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Valley base on Anglesey, northwest Wales.

"I am really delighted to have completed the training course with my fellow students," the prince said.

"The course has been challenging, but I have enjoyed it immensely. I absolutely love flying so it will be an honour to serve operationally with the Search and Rescue Force (SAR), helping to provide such a vital emergency service."

The prince will be expected to work up to ten 24-hour shifts per month answering callouts.

Group Captain Jonathan Dixon, commander of the RAF SAR Force, said: "He will merge his royal duties as much as possible with this.

"He will do everything that is expected of a search and rescue pilot and will undertake as many shifts and reach the same standards."

He added: "He has fitted in very easily. He has been very low-key and when he is with us he is Flight Lieutenant William Wales. He drops his royal highness at the gates to the station and becomes a junior officer.

"The ability to earn his crew's trust is natural to him. It has been a good course they have all gelled together, they socialise as well as work together."

William has spent the last 18 months on flying courses, progressing from smaller helicopters to spending much of the year at the controls of the larger Sea Kings to prepare him for his new role.

A spokeswoman for his St James's Palace official residence said: "Search and rescue is an intensive full-time job but the roster system will allow Prince William to allow some time to continue to carry out royal engagements, particularly on behalf of his patronages."

© 2010 AFP

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