Prince William 'challenge' as RAF Valley rescue pilot

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Prince William admits his training to qualify as an RAF search and rescue pilot has been "challenging".

Prince William collects his RAF wings

The prince, known as Flt Lt William Wales, graduated on Friday after a 19-month programme - six months of which was spent at RAF Valley on Anglesey.

"The course has been challenging, but I have enjoyed it immensely," said the prince.

He will spend the next three years at the base flying rescue missions, potentially all over the UK.

At Friday's ceremony Prince William and fellow trainees received certificates and squadron badges.

Number 50 Sea King operational conversion unit (OCU) course, which included Flt Lt Wales, consisted of four pilots and four rear crew.

Graduation class with Ft Lt Wales pictures centre back (pic: Ministry of Defence) The prince will be based at RAF Valley on Anglesey following his graduation

Half of those on the course will stay on at RAF Valley and join 'C' Flight of 22 Squadron.

According to the RAF last year 'C' Flight was one of the busiest search and rescue flights in the UK, clocking up 322 rescues.

During the course the students undertook flying and simulator training and learnt how to fly and operate the nine tonne Sea King helicopter.

Training included day and night flights in all weather conditions, over different types of terrain and seas.

The RAF has warned anyone thinking of making a bogus 999 call in the hope of catching a glimpse of the pilot prince could find themselves with a bill running into tens of thousands of pound, to cover the cost of the search and rescue operations.

During his training the prince has taken part in a number of simulated rescue missions over the Irish Sea and the Atlantic and in the mountains of Snowdonia.

The RAF has insisted that no concessions have been made to him because of his status, and that he has passed the training course on merit.

Ahead of the informal ceremony the prince said: "I am really delighted to have completed the training course with my fellow students.

"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, helping to provide such a vital emergency service."

Prince William next to a rescue helicopter

Prince William completed 70 hours of live flying plus 50 hours of simulator training to learn how to manoeuvre the Sea King helicopter to the exacting standards demanded by his role - and the RAF.

He will now take up his place as a member of a four-man rescue crew, initially as a co-pilot.

"You are exposed to your weaknesses and therefore have to adapt to them," said Wing Commander Peter Lloyd at RAF Valley.

"The crews have to work with you as a team - there is nowhere to hide in the crew of a helicopter."

It will be a number of weeks before the prince starts his first 24-hour shift as he will have to undergo "acceptance" - learning the terrain and landing sites crews are regularly called out to by flying to the places during day and night exercises.

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