RAF bans Prince William from drinking for four months


Last updated at 09:52 04 January 2008

Prince William

Prince William is facing a strict four-month alcohol ban as he begins fast-track training to earn his RAF wings.

He must agree to the Air Force's "bottle to throttle" ban before he is allowed to take to the air. Pilots are barred from having more than two pints within 12 hours of flying and the second-in-line-to-the-throne will be treated no differently.

The Prince, well known for stumbling out of London nightclubs with his girlfriend Kate Middleton, will be expected to train five days a week and study in the evenings.

The secondment will allow the 25-year-old prince, a Second Lieutenant with the Blues and Royals, to fulfil his ambition of learning to fly at the RAF's elite training college, Cranwell, in Lincolnshire.

It will also prepare him for his future role of head of the Armed Forces. He will move to the Royal Navy in the spring.

Prince William will be known as Flying Officer William Wales and wear Airforce uniform, although he will remain under command of his Army regiment, the Household Cavalry.

William's decision to spend time with the RAF is considered a coup in the Airforce's 90th anniversary year.

The project, known as Golden Kestrel, has been months in the planning, but before today few details were made public.

However, some military sources have questioned the cost of his placement at a time when the force is suffering from financial constraints.

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Group Captain Nick Seward, Commandant of the Central Flying School, admitted that William's special training programme was "expensive", but declined to reveal exact figures.

"Because the Royal Air Force's flying training system is designed to prepare pilots for transition to specific operational aircraft, Flying Officer Wales will complete a bespoke, shortened course to meet his individual needs."

A source at Cranwell said: "To be fair, Prince William will always be treated as a special case and we are all genuinely delighted that he is coming here.

"That said, a few eyebrows have been raised over the cost of what is, after all, a Boy's Own crash course in flying that most young men and women would give their teeth for."

The Prince will first learn to pilot a Tutor elementary training aircraft before moving on to the faster Tucano - which handles quite like a jet aircraft - and finally to the Squirrel helicopter, which is used by all three services.

He has already had a strict medical assessment, in which he met "minimum medical standards" - something of a relief to William, who wears glasses in private, and had feared his poor eyesight could prevent him from flying.

According to Squadron Leader Roger Bousfield, the man who will - literally - hold the life of the future king in his hands, William will go up in a dual-control plane within hours of arriving on Monday.

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Prince William's teachers

He will complete his first solo flight after clocking up eight hours in the air.

"There's a lot of weight on my shoulders being responsible for his safety, especially when it's just me and him 10,000ft in the air."

If successful - and only three have failed in the last two years - William will be awarded his RAF wings when he graduates in April, following his father - Prince Charles had flying training at Cranwell in 1971. Group Captain Seward insists that William will be treated like any other junior officer - bunking down with the other would-be pilots during the week and eating in the officer's mess.

It also means William will be parted from his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, in the week.

"He will be expected to fully integrate both at work and socially and will not be given any preferential treatment. It will be four months of hard, hard graft for him.

"There is a lot for him to achieve in the time frame which will mean early starts on a daily basis and studying late into the night. I doubt he will have much of an appetite for socialising, with or without the bottle to throttle rule."

William will also be sent on attachment to front-line units including Support Helicopter, Search and Rescue, Air Transport and Fighter Aircraft.