8 JANUARY 2008

Prince William yesterday took the first step towards being awarded his RAF wings, as he realised a childhood ambition by taking control of an aircraft for the first time.

The 25-year-old royal, already an Army officer with the Household Cavalry, described his first flight - which lasted for about an hour - as "exhilarating". His chance to pilot the plane came on the first day of a four-month course designed to train him in different aspects of the RAF in preparation for his future role as head of the Armed Forces.

When he's completed the intensive course at Cranwell in Lincolnshire, Flying Officer Wales, as he's known in the RAF, will be able to pilot a plane solo. "There's a lot of weight on my shoulders being responsible for his safety," said the Prince's instructor. "Especially when it's just me and him 10,000 feet in the air. But he's also responsible for my life and I have every faith in him - I think!"

The secondment, which according to Group Captain Nick Seward will be "hard, hard graft for the Prince", means Wills will be missing girlfriend Kate Middleton's 26th birthday this week. "There is a lot to achieve in the time frame, which will mean early starts and studying late into the night. I doubt he will have much of an appetite for socialising," adds the RAF officer.

In training to be a pilot William is following in the footsteps of his father and uncle. Prince Charles completed his flying course in 1971, while his bother, Prince Andrew, is a former Royal Navy helicopter pilot.

Photo: © Alphapress.com
After taking to the skies on his first day of training the young Prince described the experience as "exhilarating"Photo: © Getty Images."
Photo: © Alphapress.com
Dressed in a flying uniform bearing the name William Wales, the 25-year-old prepares to pilot an aircraft for the first time at RAF Cranwell. His father also learned to fly at the Lincolnshire base in 1971Photo: © Getty Images
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