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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 January 2008, 17:33 GMT
'Sharp eyes' William's solo flight
By Daniela Relph
BBC royal correspondent, RAF Cranwell

There is no time for royal protocol when you are learning to fly.

To his instructors here he is simply "William".

Prince William (L) and Sdn Ldr Roger Bousfield, preparing for take off on 17 January 2008
The prince is living in the mess at RAF Cranwell during his training
Flying Officer Wales is just one of the boys - as much as you can be when you are the future King.

Our visit to RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire was a chance to see how the early days of his RAF training are going - an insight into the daily routine of the new recruit.

First up, the 0815 briefing that happens at the start of every day before any flight.

I'm still here to tell the tale and I haven't been billed for a plane!
Prince William

Prince William was one of the last to take his seat at the back of the room.

It was essentially a weather forecast for the royal and his group of fellow prospective pilots.

The outlook was gloomy - these were going to be far from ideal flying conditions.

But Prince William did not look too worried at the prospect perhaps because, for him, the worst was now over - he successfully completed his maiden solo sortie on Wednesday.

He had not expected it so soon. The prince had wanted to fly a few more hours but his instructor sprung it on him and he coped well.

Prince William preparing for take off on 17 January 2008
The prince showed no sign of nerves as he prepared for take-off

The 25-year-old said: "Well, I'm still here to tell the tale and I haven't been billed for a plane!

"Once you get up in the air, it was fine."

There was another test of his nerves on Thursday as he faced the cameras for his first flight in public view.

This time he had the comforting presence of his instructor by his side. It was a smooth take-off and a slick landing, much to Prince William's relief.

His appearance in front of the camera was something of a novelty for his colleagues, many of whom had come out to watch the spectacle.

Prince William gets no preferential treatment here.

He lives in the mess at RAF Cranwell, but having him around did take some getting used to for those training with him.

'A good lad'

"He's just one of the guys. It was surreal for maybe the first hour but that's all," said Mark Shipley, one of his fellow trainees.

"I play football with him, eat with him, he's a good lad."

Flying Officer Wales has been allocated a dedicated instructor for the duration of his training at RAF Cranwell.

Prince William (L) takes to the skies on 17 January 2008
Flying Officer Wales is said to have coped well flying solo

It is normal practice, designed to ensure continuity, and is reassuring for the young officers.

It is Sqn Ldr Roger Bousfield's job to turn the prince into a competent pilot. He is impressed with the progress so far.

"He's been very good," said the airman.

"He has good natural handling ability and a sharp pair of eyes. He is working very hard in the evenings and retains information well."

What was obvious today was the element of training that the prince was not so keen on.

When told by Sqn Ldr Bousfield that the plan for the day's flight was to include some aerobatics, Prince William raised his eyes to the heavens and groaned.

But for once, the prince could thank the bad weather which curtailed the flight plan and prevented any stomach churning manoeuvres - for now at least.

If Flying Officer Wales stays on course over the next few months, he will earn his wings and graduate in April.

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