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Prince William graduates as a pilot

Prince William graduated as a Royal Air Force pilot on Friday after successfully completing an intensive flying course.

world Updated: Apr 11, 2008 20:51 IST

Prince William graduated as a Royal Air Force pilot on Friday after successfully completing an intensive flying course.

The prince, 25, received his wings from his father Prince Charles in a graduation ceremony at the RAF Cranwell air base in Lincolnshire.

Amid applause, a smiling Charles spoke to his son as he stuck on the wings badge and shook hands with him afterwards.

William, second in line to the throne, temporarily left his army officer role for a specially slimmed-down four-month RAF course, aimed at preparing him for his future duties as head of the armed forces when he becomes king.

He learnt how to fly fast propeller-powered planes and helicopters and is the fourth generation of British royals to become an RAF pilot.

The prince's girlfriend Kate Middleton was among his guests. Charles's second wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Lady Sarah McCorquodale -- the sister of William's mother Diana, princess of Wales -- also attended.

Nigel Wharmby, RAF Cranwell's commanding officer, told the audience, "The graduates here today are very special people and that is why we recognise their accomplishments in this ceremony.

"To those who fly today, these badges are the most coveted of all our insignia and rightly so.

"To all the graduates, I say remember this day with great pride and enjoy it; you have most definitely earned it."

Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, chief of the air staff, told graduates: "This is probably one of the most significant milestones in an aviator's career.

"It's something that not many people can do and you should be very proud of what you have done."

Army officer William has served a year as a second lieutenant in the Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry, following his graduation from the elite Sandhurst military academy. He is a troop commander in charge of armoured Scimitar vehicles.

While with the RAF, he is known as Flying Officer William Wales, equivalent to his army rank, and wears an RAF uniform.

Charles, the Prince of Wales, earned his wings more than 35 years ago.

The heir to the throne's brother Prince Andrew was a Royal Navy helicopter pilot during the 1982 Falklands War with Argentina. He used his helicopter as a decoy for incoming missiles.

William is now due to serve on attachment to the Royal Navy.

The prince is gradually being groomed for his future duties as prince of Wales and as king. He has already represented Queen Elizabeth II on a handful of occasions.