LONDON — Britain’s Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, is going back to work, taking on a new role as an air ambulance pilot.
The duke will start in September, a year after leaving the Royal Air Force, where he flew search and rescue helicopters.
It’s the first time a royal who’s in direct line to the throne has taken a civilian job. The East Anglian Air Ambulance is operated by a private company, Bond Air Services, but the Duke will donate his salary to charity.
He’ll be based near his country home on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate, which should allow him to remain a hands-on dad to his one-year-old heir Prince George.
A palace spokesman said Prince William was “hugely excited and motivated” by his new job.
“The Duke sees this as a true form of public service, helping people in their most difficult times,” the spokesman said. “He regards his work with the RAF search and rescue force as having been an exceptional privilege and the Duke wanted to make his own contribution to the outstanding work of the air ambulance service.”
The high-profile royal would have had to weigh up the risks of taking on a civilian, as opposed to military, role. Public interest could affect not only his work, but potentially also that of medics and patients on board his aircraft. There is the heightened possibility of phone footage emerging of his rescues which could compromise privacy and security. There’s also the risk of additional hoax calls.
These were not a major issues whilst Prince William was a military search and rescue pilot because he was working in a remote part of west Wales and over water. The two air ambulances in East Anglia are the most widely used in the UK and operate in a built-up area. Their usual landing spots include school playing fields; residential gardens; car parks; beaches and any open space deemed possible by the pilot.
William is currently on what officials have described as a “transitional year,” focusing on his royal duties and charitable work. He always planned to return to work and was keen that it would involve flying.
Most air ambulance pilots have a military background like the Duke, who joined a squadron based at RAF Valley after qualifying as a search and rescue pilot in 2010. He undertook 156 search and rescue operations, resulting in 149 people being rescued. He is highly skilled.
Andrew Egerton Smith, chairman of the East Anglian Air Ambulance said: “Having the Duke of Cambridge as one of our pilots is marvelous news as he brings much experience to the charity after his successful career as a search and rescue pilot. We have an outstanding track record of attending people in their hour of need which is recognized and generously supported by our local communities.”
William will spend the autumn and winter in training with the East Anglian Air Ambulance and, once qualified, will start co-piloting in the spring of next year. He will work from Cambridge and Norwich Airports doing both day and night shifts. The Duke is then expected to progress to the position of helicopter commander.
The palace said the pilot role would be the Duke’s “primary occupation.” Its statement added: “But his roster will take into account the duties and responsibilities he will continue to undertake on behalf of The Queen, both in the United Kingdom and overseas. The Duke will also continue his work with his patronages and with the Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.”
The Duke has always been keen on a role beyond his royal duties whilst he is still second in line to the throne. This job will allow him to balance both positions whilst having his young family close-by.
The Cambridges’ country house, Anmer Hall, is being renovated and is set in idyllic rural surroundings which affords the family more privacy than their official residence at Kensington Palace, London, which is constantly monitored by photographers.