Heir who’s ready to take to the air when duty calls

HE and his wife are one of the most photographed couples in the world, with flashbulbs following their every public appearance and even capturing their most intimate private moments.

But these behind-the-scenes pictures of Prince William’s everyday life as an RAF search and rescue pilot have never been seen – until now.

The pictures were published on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s newly-launched website yesterday to show a typical “day in the life” of William in his work flying Sea King helicopters from his base at RAF Valley on Anglesey.

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But in an embarrassing blunder, several images had to be hastily removed and reissued after the originals showed unclassified Ministry of Defence (MoD) user names, passwords and computer screens.

An MoD spokesman yesterday blamed an “administrative oversight” and added: “The passwords and user names shown have now been reset as a precaution and we are satisfied the images do not contravene security regulations.”

From planning and preparing for emergency call-outs to resting with his colleagues during down-time, the photos give a rare glimpse into the daily working life of Flight Lieutenant Wales.

While he may be second in line to the throne, the Prince does not stand on ceremony when it comes to his job.

He works the same 24-hour shifts as the rest of his four-man crew and is happy to brew up a pot of tea and make his own bed.

His morning starts with a briefing from the off-going duty crew about the state of the aircraft and weather conditions.

From the moment they start their shift, the crew are at “Readiness State 15” and must be airborne within 15 minutes of a call.

At night they adopt “Readiness State 45”, giving them extra time to plan and prepare for night-time operations.

The pictures show William planning and taking part in extra training along with his crew, as they hone their skills to ensure they can rescue people from land, sea, mountains or in flooded towns day and night.

The crew often take part in exercises with other emergency services, such as the RNLI, mountain rescue teams and local fire and rescue services.

The Search and Rescue Force (SARF) attend an average of 1,950 call-outs each year – RAF Valley typically responds to a high number, as it covers north Wales, popular for walking and climbing.

One picture shows Flt Lt Wales checking his aircraft, a Sea King Mark 3. He is one of two pilots in the crew, which also includes a winchman and a radar/winch operator.

The craft can carry a maximum of 17 passengers and can fly for up to six hours with a range of 250 nautical miles. William’s tasks include checking the airframe, fuel, hydraulic and navigation systems.

The pictures also show the crew during their down-time, sharing a meal and resting. Computer games – especially military-themed ones such as Call of Duty – are said to be a favourite pastime, but the crew can never be more than 60 seconds away from their aircraft. Towards the end of their shift, they have to prepare a brief for the next day’s crew before hanging up their flying kit and heading home.

Once they have clocked off, they remain on standby for most of the next day in case they are needed to support more complex search and rescue operations.

William served as a regimental officer in the British Army before undertaking attachments to the RAF and the Royal Navy.

He has been based on Anglesey, where he lives with wife Kate, since beginning his pilot training in January 2008, graduating in September 2010 and qualifying to take command of a Sea King Mark 3 earlier this year.

He has previously spoken of his pride of being part of the search and rescue force.

Speaking at RAF Valley last April, he said: “The skills the guys employ, the flying aspects, the general airmanship you need to have around you and all the others you need to survive the weather and whatever sort of situation you are thrown into – it’s definitely advanced flying 
and it’s rewarding, so put the 
two together and it’s a fantastic job.

He added: “It’s great that you get to go out and save someone’s life hopefully, or at least make a difference. When you know they are in trouble, you do everything you can to get there.”

The website is at www.dukeandduchessofcambridge.org.