September 15, 2008 / 1:22 PM / 10 years ago

Lost? Some day soon Prince William could come

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Britons stranded at sea or in flooded homes could find a real-life prince riding to their rescue.

Britain's Prince William looks on at Soldier Ghaut during a disaster relief rehearsal with the crew of HMS Iron Duke, on the island of Monserrat July 7, 2008. REUTERS/John Stillwell/Pool

Prince William announced on Monday that he is to train to be a full-time pilot with the Royal Air Force’s Search and Rescue Force (SARF).

William, who is currently a Lieutenant in the Army’s Household Cavalry Regiment, will transfer to the RAF and begin an 18-month training course in January 2009.

If successful, he will become a fully operational Search and Rescue pilot in 2010, flying Sea King helicopters at one of the six SARF units based around Britain.

“The time I spent with the RAF earlier this year made me realize how much I love flying,” the prince, who spent two weeks with a SARF team while on work experience in 2005, said in a statement.

“Joining Search and Rescue is a perfect opportunity for me to serve in the Forces operationally, while contributing to a vital part of the country’s Emergency Services.”

It means he will follow a similar career to that of his uncle, Prince Andrew, who was a Sea King helicopter pilot during the 1982 Falklands war.

The Search and Rescue teams’ main duty is to recover RAF personnel but in peacetime they mainly respond to civilian emergencies, dealing with more than 1,000 calls a year.

The units deal with incidents ranging from helping those trapped by sudden major floods to rescuing people lost while out walking on hills.

William, who has spent the last year on secondment to the various branches of the military to prepare for his future role as head of the armed forces, received his RAF wings following a four-month stint with the service earlier this year.

However, his time with the RAF was clouded when the Defense Ministry was forced to fend off criticism for allowing the prince to fly military helicopters to a bachelor party for his cousin and to the family home of his girlfriend Kate Middleton.

Reporting by Michael Holden, editing by Paul Casciato

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