William flies helicopter to hospital as he marks air ambulance anniversary

The Duke of Cambridge flew a helicopter to a London hospital as he celebrated the 30th anniversary of the capital’s air ambulance service.

William, a former pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA), boarded the aircraft at his home, Kensington Palace, and took the controls for the 25-minute trip.

The duke’s flight in London’s Air Ambulance Charity’s helicopter came as he was named the patron of the service’s 30th Anniversary Campaign, which aims to raise awareness about its work and support for the development of new facilities.

During the visit William was shown a graphic demonstration of paramedics dealing with a stab victim, but in a lighter moment when given a card to mark wife Kate’s 37th birthday, confessed: “I did remember this morning – so I was OK.”

The duke later said he had not flown since June but the charity’s chief pilot, Neil Jeffers, said he was impressed with the royal’s skills as an aviator.

Duke of Cambridg
Duke of Cambridg

He said: “We landed at Kensington Palace, we put him in the right seat, the captain’s seat of the aircraft, he has only flown the aircraft a couple of times but was happy to fly it.

“So he did all the flying from the palace, we had a look around London looking at some landing sites.”

William landed at the charity’s helipad on the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London – a spot he has flown to a number of times as an air ambulance pilot.

The duke joined the EAAA as a pilot in March 2015 and, after completing an initial period of job-specific training involving simulator, aircraft and in-flight skills training, began piloting his first operational missions in July 2015 before his last in July 2017.

Throughout his service William was based at Cambridge Airport as part of a team including specialist doctors, critical care paramedics and pilots providing emergency medical services across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

After he stepped from the charity’s MD 902 Explorer helicopter, one of two used by the organisation but not in service, he told its chief executive Jonathan Jenkins: “Flying around here is the best thing ever – amazing”.

The chief pilot said about the duke: “He flies sporadically, he’s a busy man, has a family to look after, he hasn’t flown for quite a few months but when you have that motor programme, like riding a bike, you don’t often forget it.

“He’s very switched on, he’s passionate about it and flies incredibly well for someone who doesn’t fly that often.”