Prince William has taken his first solo flight Wednesday – just eight days into his training to be a pilot.
The prince, 25, described the moment above the skies of Lincolnshire, England, as “an amazing feeling, I couldn’t believe it”.
In fact, he “is still grinning about it today,” his tutor, Squadron Leader Roger Bousfield, said Thursday.
William’s tutor kept him in the dark about the planned solo flight, stepping out of the plane just before takeoff. That left the prince alone to taxi onto the runway at the Cranwell base.
“I was sitting there saying, ‘Oh my, this is a bit odd. There’s no one in here,'” he recalled. “Once I’d taken off, it was fine, you just remember your checks and do all the things you have to do.”
Still, the prince admitted it was often nerve-wracking: “I was watching the runway getting closer and closer and thinking, ‘Please don’t mess this up’.”
Clearly, he didn’t. The head of the flying training school at the base, Group Capt. Andy Naismith, said William’s achievement ranks him up there with the best beginners. “He is definitely at the front end of the scale,” he told PEOPLE.
And don’t think Naismith is simply kissing up to the future King. “It would be very easy for that [praise] to sound sycophantic,” he said, “but [William] has learned very quickly. And that, allied with hard work and natural feeling and ability, has meant that he has been able to do this.”
Earning His Wings
On Thursday, William took another 40-minute flight, this one watched by around 75 members of the media.
His fellow beginners – a group of whom jokingly called out to him as he headed to the runway – seem impressed with his attitude. Flying officer Mark Shipley said they have even been playing soccer and having dinner with the prince.
The 11-strong group “go for a drink after work, then dinner and then study,” Shipley added. “William’s been working even harder because he has such a short time to cover it.”
Yesterday’s achievement is an early step in his bid to earn his “wings” – something he hopes to achieve in April. Next up, he learns to fly faster planes at a different base in Yorkshire and then on to Shropshire, England, where he will learn to fly helicopters.
William is on a four-month tour with the RAF as he familiarizes himself with all branches of the armed forces.
“My veins are running through and through with army blood,” William told reporters. “But the RAF have completely different principles and ethos and are a great bunch of guys.”