His Royal Fly-ness: Prince Harry Qualifies to Pilot British Army Helicopters

LONDON — Just call him Your Royal Fly-ness: Prince Harry has earned his wings, his office said Friday.

Harry, the younger son of Charles and the late Princess Diana, is third in line to the British throne, but known in the military simply as Lt. Harry Wales. Earlier this week, he passed the final exams to become an army helicopter pilot — a career he hopes will take him back to the front lines in Afghanistan.

Harry has already served with British forces in the country's restive Helmand Province — he spent nearly three months directing air strikes as a forward air controller — and has said he hopes his new career as a helicopter pilot in the Army Air Corps will help him return there.

"To get out to Afghanistan again would be fantastic and my best chance is to do it from a helicopter," he said last year. "I'm really enjoying it and, as everyone knows, it's my easiest way of getting back to the front line. Maybe safer, maybe not, I don't know."

A spokeswoman at Harry's St. James's Palace office said the prince was "very pleased" to have passed the course, which began last January. She said any decision on returning to the war zone would be for the army's chain of command.

"Like any soldier, Prince Harry would deploy to where he is asked," she said on condition of anonymity, in line with palace policy.

Harry will learn next week whether he will fly the Apache attack helicopter — used in Afghanistan to assault enemy ground positions — or the Lynx chopper, described as the army's "primary battlefield utility helicopter."

The army will ultimately make the decision about what helicopter he will pilot, but Harry is entitled to request a specific aircraft — and his preferences, "to some extent," are considered, the palace said, along with his ability and the army's operational needs.

A Defense Ministry spokesman said Harry will undergo further training once he is assigned to a specific aircraft. If he were to deploy to Afghanistan, it likely wouldn't be until at least 2011, he said on condition of anonymity, in line with government policy.

The prince will be presented with his pilot's wings next week by his father, Prince Charles — who qualified to fly choppers in 1974 during his time in the military.

Flying is in this family's royal blood: Harry's older brother, Prince William, is learning to fly search-and-rescue choppers and will be posted to a Royal Air Force base in Wales when he completes his training. Their uncle, Prince Andrew, flew a Royal Navy helicopter during the Falklands War.