Royalty and statesmen

Although his use of the Chinook came in for criticism from some quarters, the Army has confirmed William's helicopter sortie to the Isle of Wight was a final requirement for getting his pilot's wings
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He took to the controls of the heavy-lift transport helicopter on the pre-planned, 80-minute journey, which tested his over-water flying skills

Newly qualified pilot Wills flies £10m chopper to Peter's stag do

16 APRIL 2008
For most young men turning up to a stag do in a limousine would be considered pushing the boat out. Prince William went one better, though, when he arrived for the weekend stag event of his cousin Peter Phillips in a £10 million RAF helicopter.

Shortly after his girlfriend Kate Middleton watched his father Prince Charles present him with his pilot's wings at Royal Air Force base at Cranwell in Lincolnshire on Friday, Wills had one more flight to make to complete his training.

He took the controls of a Chinook helicopter for a low-level sortie south to London, followed by over water experience. Touching down at Woolwich army barracks to pick up brother Prince Harry, he then flew the heavy-lift transport to the Isle of Wight where they were joining Peter's pre-wedding celebrations.

While the journey has drawn criticism in some quarters, the RAF has confirmed the trip was a legitimate training exercise which tested the second in line to the throne's new skills to the limit. The Ministry of Defence has emphasised the sortie was always planned as part of William's training and included important elements of a pilot's skills.

The Prince - who has been undergoing pilot training for the last four months - spent last week with a Chinook squadron. Friday's flight, which was a requisite to earning his wings, was apparently arranged after the Prince was unable to participate in an earlier exercise.