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1953: Duke of Edinburgh gets his wings
The Duke of Edinburgh has been awarded his pilot's "wings" during a private ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

He was presented with the award by Air Chief Marshall Sir William Dickson, Chief of Air Staff.

The Duke's flying instructor, 29-year-old Flight-Lieutenant Caryl Ramsay Gordon was present at the ceremony.

Thoughtful with a sense of safety and airmanship above average
RAF examiners on the Duke's flying abilities
Earlier in the day, he watched his royal pupil complete three solo circuits and landings, or "bumps" as they are called, at White Waltham airfield in Berkshire in order to qualify for his wings.

His Harvard aircraft bore the five stars denoting his rank of Marshal of the Royal Air Force.

An RAF examining unit had described his flying as "thoughtful with a sense of safety and airmanship above average".

This is the first time the wings have been presented by an officer junior in rank to the recipient and the first time an officer of such senior rank has received the award. Normally, pilots qualify long before they reach such a high rank.

There has been speculation that the Duke might fly the Queen to Balmoral next Sunday for a pre-coronation holiday. His royal counterpart in the Netherlands Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands often flies with his wife Queen Juliana as a passenger.

But last night an Air Ministry spokesman said the award does not permit the Duke to fly multi-engined aircraft.

"But even if the Duke goes on to qualify to fly multi-engined aircraft, I doubt if the government would agree to his piloting the Queen by himself," he told the press.

"However good the Duke is as a pilot, the selected RAF pilots who have daily flying practice must be preferable to the Duke, who will not have the time for such practice," he added.

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Duke of Edinburgh in his Harvard aircraft
The Duke had to perform three solo circuits in order to qualify



In Context
The Duke of Edinburgh did fly up to Scotland the following week under supervision, but the Queen was not with him. She had made the journey the previous day to Balmoral for a pre-coronation holiday. She was crowned Queen Elizabeth II the following month.

The Duke qualified as a helicopter pilot in 1955 in a Westland Dragonfly and has since flown more different types of aircraft than most pilots.

In 1956, he founded the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, a voluntary, non-competitive programme of practical, cultural and adventurous activities for young people aged 14-25.

His son, the Duke of York, also went on to train as a Royal Navy helicopter pilot and flew in operations during the 1982 Falklands War - the first member of the Royal family to see active service since World War II.

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