Royal ROW: How Prince William was criticised for ‘using RAF as taxi service’

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PRINCE William faced public criticism after he used an RAF helicopter as a “stag-do taxi service” in his younger days, a royal biographer reveals.

Prince William and Kate Middleton have spoken of their son Prince George’s love for helicopters and his dream to be a pilot just like his dad. William has had a successful military career and completed several daring missions – including a repatriation deployment in Afghanistan – but he landed himself in trouble when he first qualified as an RAF pilot. Katie Nicholl, in her 2010 book “William and Harry”, tells the story of the controversial trip that caused the prince to be criticised over his use of RAF helicopters.

Prince William shows his son Prince George a helicopter cockpit in Germany Image Getty
Prince William shows his son Prince George a helicopter cockpit in Germany Image Getty

She reports how Prince William qualified as an RAF pilot on Friday April 11, 2008, and that very same weekend had a stag party to attend on the Isle of Wight ahead of his cousin Peter Philips’ marriage to Autumn Kelly.

Ms Nicholl writes how William “called [Prince] Harry to announce that he had a plan to get the the Isle of Wight,” on a Chinook helicopter.

The two-hour flight from RAF Cranwell to the Isle of Wight was approved by the RAF, and William flew to London to pick Harry up from Woolwich, before touching down for the party having beaten the rush-hour traffic and ensuring “plenty of time at the bar”.

However, Ms Nicholl writes: “A bitter row was quickly escalating over the cost of the flight.”

The RAF described the trip as a “legitimate training sortie which tested his new skills”.

Nevertheless, questions arose over “why the prince had been allowed to use the £10million RAF helicopter as his personal transport when there was a shortage in Afghanistan.”

Ms Nicholl continues: “The flight, which cost £15,000, benefitted no one other than William and Harry, who had made the journey in record time simply for a party.”

The Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Nick Harvey said at the time: “This is serious kit with serious running costs. The public will not appreciate it being used as a stag-do taxi service.”

Ms Nicholl adds: “It wasn’t the first time William had been criticised for using he RAF as a private taxi service.”

That year the prince had also flown a Chinook helicopter to Sandringham and Highgrove, and to visit Kate Middleton at her family home in Berkshire.

Added to this: “When he was on work experience at RAF Valley in December 2005 the had flown from Anglesey to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire in a Hawk jet so that he could collect a pair of boots.”

Prince William went on to have a career in the RAF, where he specialised as a search and rescue pilot, until 2013.

He then joined the East Anglia Air Ambulance as a pilot from 2015, until he stepped down in order to take on more full-time royal duties in 2017.