King Charles Lauds His Son Prince William As A Skilled Pilot As He Relinquishes His Military Position

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King Charles Lauds His Son Prince William As A Skilled Pilot As He Relinquishes His Military Position

The King lauded the Prince of Wales, affirming him as a “highly skilled pilot,” during the transition of his former military position to his son and successor.

Prince William, aged 41, assumed the role of Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Air Corps, marking the occasion alongside his father, Charles, aged 75, at the handover ceremony in Middle Wallop, Hampshire, on Monday.

“I did just want to say what a great joy it is to be with you even briefly on this occasion,” Charles began. “But also tinged with great sadness after 32 years of knowing you all and admiring all your many activities and your achievements throughout the time, I’ve been lucky enough to be Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Air Corps.”

He added: “So all I can say is that having had the pleasure of knowing you for so long, I do hope you’ll go from strength to strength in the future with the Prince of Wales as your new Colonel-in-Chief. The great thing is he’s a very good pilot indeed so that’s encouraging. So ladies and gentlemen, look after yourselves and, and, and I can’t tell you how proud it has made me to be involved with you all this time.”

The Army Air Corps holds significance for the Duke of Sussex, where he served as an Apache helicopter commander and co-pilot gunner during his second tour to Afghanistan in 2012. When the King announced last year that he would be handing over this role to William, it was perceived as a setback for Harry.

Amidst a lighthearted moment, the King and the Prince of Wales shared a laugh as William arrived at the airfield for the handover ceremony. The transition of military duties, announced in August, marked Charles relinquishing the role after 32 years.

Captured in photographs against the backdrop of an Apache helicopter, the father and son commemorated the official handover. William’s military service with the Blues and Royals and as an RAF search and rescue pilot were highlighted. During his time as a search and rescue pilot, he conducted 156 operations, served on routine operational deployments to the Falkland Islands, and attained the rank of operational Captain.

Following his departure from the Armed Forces, William underwent retraining to become an air ambulance pilot, serving with the East Anglian Air Ambulance for over two years starting from March 2015. Additionally, last August, William assumed the roles of Colonel-in-Chief of the Mercian Regiment and Royal Honorary Air Commodore of RAF Valley.

In a symbolic gesture, the King presented William with the regiment’s beret and stable belt in front of the Apache before engaging with serving aircrew. As the Sovereign and Head of the Armed Forces, the King, a military veteran with training and service in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, addressed the gathered personnel.

Before his departure and the Prince of Wales’s subsequent engagement with the regiment, a group photograph was taken. Earlier in the day, as Charles arrived at the airfield, he spontaneously interacted with schoolchildren from Middle Wallop School, a significant number of whom have parents associated with the regiment.

Concluding the ceremony, the King delivered a poignant speech and unveiled a plaque commemorating an Apache AH Mk.1, marking its display—the first of its kind to be exhibited at a UK museum.

“All that time on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, I watched with them again, immense admiration for what you did and managed to do out there,” Charles said. “And of course, with this remarkable Apache, I remember, I think I probably was taken up with one of these ones all those years ago and I shall never forget it. 

“Nor will I forget the fact that when I first became Colonel-in-Chief, you still had quite a few fixes me aircraft, one or two, which I flew in along with some rather ancient helicopters.”

In his inaugural engagement as Colonel-in-Chief of the Army Air Corps, William donned the regiment’s attire. Initially, he received a comprehensive briefing on the current endeavors of the Army Air Corps from the Colonel Commandant, Lieutenant General Sir Nicholas Borton. Subsequently, he conducted inspections of training and operational aircraft and engaged in conversations with soldiers.

During the engagement, William was bestowed with gifts representing the corps’ appreciation—a tartan scarf for himself, a wrap intended for his wife Kate, and three wooden helicopter models tailored for each of the couple’s children.

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