MoD 'naive' over Prince's joyrides

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The RAF confessed yesterday that it was a public relations disaster to allow Prince William to make five flights in military helicopters for personal reasons. Instructors gave the Prince the chance to take a Chinook to a party, and to a wedding, and to show off to his prospective parents-in-law, and get aerial views of royal residences.

Prince William started his RAF training on 7 January, undergoing an intensive course that saw him awarded his wings on 11 April. On the day he graduated, the RAF heaped praise on the speed with which he picked up flying skills. "He worked every hour he had spare and also mixed in with the boys well," Wing Commander John Cunningham said.

It has become clear, however, that the Prince was actually devoting some of those hours having fun in Chinooks. On 2 April, he flew a Chinook over his father's country home, Highgrove, in Gloucestershire, in what was logged as a training flight. The next day, there was another training flight to Bucklebury, where the parents of his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, live.

On 4 April, he was a guest at a wedding in Hexham, in Northumberland. He flew there by Chinook – no doubt impressing wedding guests.

Five days later, his instructor told him to navigate by using recognisable marker points, including Sandringham, the Queen's residence in Norfolk. Finally on 11 April, the day he received his wings, he flew a Chinook to London, picked up his younger brother Harry, and flew to the Isle of Wight, where the Princess Royal's's son, Peter Phillips, was having a stag party.

The Ministry of Defence apologised, in the hope of defusing the anger of other service families at a time when the MoD budget is being squeezed, and admitted "there was a degree of naivety in the planning of these sorties".