LONDON – Prince William will begin taking flying lessons next week at the start of a four-month assignment with the Royal Air Force, the military announced Friday.
The prince will begin his course on Monday with around 10 other students at the RAF Cranwell base in eastern England, the air force said. He will be known as Flying Officer William Wales, and will train on helicopters as well as fixed-wing aircraft.
"During his time with us, Flying Officer Wales will be realizing a personal ambition to learn how to fly and this will be the beginning of a lifelong relationship with the Royal Air Force," said Group Captain Nick Seward, commander of the air force flying school.
"If successful, he will be awarded his RAF wings, and in anticipation of this a graduation ceremony is planned for April," Seward added.
William, 25, is following in the footsteps of his father, Prince Charles, in serving with all three branches of the armed forces. The British monarch is symbolic head of the forces, and William is second in line to the throne, behind his father.
Prince William graduated from Sandhurst military academy in December 2006 and has spent the last year as a second lieutenant in the army's Blues and Royals cavalry regiment. His younger brother, Harry, 23, is also an officer in the Blues and Royals.
William will undergo a shortened version of the air force's standard pilot training course and will follow his stint in the air force with several months with the Royal Navy.
"We have adapted the course and we have cut out anything superfluous to his specific needs because we're not teaching him to be an operational pilot, we're teaching him to be a competent pilot," said Squadron Leader Kevin Marsh, who is overseeing William's attachment.
Some questioned the training for William at a time when the military complains of being overstretched due to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Graham Smith, from the anti-monarchist group Republic, called the prince's flying lessons "a disgraceful waste of resources."
"If William wants to learn to fly, he should either do it on his own time and at his own expense or commit to serving a full career in the air force," Smith said.
The royal family has a long tradition of military service. Prince Charles completed pilot training at RAF Cranwell in 1971. William's uncle, Prince Andrew, flew Sea King helicopters with the Royal Navy during the 1982 Falklands War.
Prince William's grandfather, Prince Philip, saw active service with the navy throughout World War II.
Queen Elizabeth II, William's grandmother, was trained as a truck driver with the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II.