Prince William is back in the cockpit, 18 months after he finished a stint as a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter pilot—this time, as an air ambulance pilot. Earlier this month, William got his Air Transport Pilot’s licence, after passing 14 written exams on everything from navigation to air law. In addition, he is learning to pilot a new helicopter. The RAF used Sea Kings, but he’s reportedly going to fly the new Airbus H145 (formerly the EC145 T2).
A terse notice from Kensington Palace on March 30 gave the most basic of information:
“The Duke of Cambridge has today started work as an employee of Bond Air Services. Over the coming months, he will undertake job-specific training before he begins piloting missions for East Anglian Air Ambulance during the summer. The mandatory training will involve simulator, aircraft and in-flight skills training.
“This job will be the duke’s primary occupation.” (His roster will take into account his royal duties, and he’ll donate his $80,000 salary to charity.)
William has made no secret of his desire to put off being a full-time royal for as long as possible, especially while his father, Charles, and grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, are healthy and continue to undertake a large number of duties.
While East Anglian Air Ambulance is a charity, Bond Air is a private firm. Bond’s website says it’s a leader in providing helicopters for search and rescue, as well air ambulance and other support services for both private firms and public administrations, such as East Anglian. Bond is owned by Babcock International, Britain’s leading “engineering support services organization,” which manages everything from nuclear reactors to vocational training of students.
Has an heir to the throne ever worked for a private company?
As far as I can tell, no. As a future monarch, William must always be wary of those wanting to take advantage of his presence. Now, Bond and, thus, Babcock, have a future king on the payroll. Surely, management will face an overwhelming temptation to take advantage of his employment for business purposes. He isn’t like his cousins, including Olympic rider Zara Phillips, who accepts private sponsorship for her riding career and, in return, is featured in marketing schemes. Phillips may be the Queen’s oldest granddaughter, but she works for a living, and undertakes no public duties. That isn’t the case with William.
In contrast, military service is seen as a public good. And, with a chain of command that ends with the Queen, it offers him unique protection from press intrusions and leaks to the media. Also, when he left the RAF, there were reports that it was partly because the search-and-rescue service was being privatized (to an American firm).
Only time will tell whether this is a good decision for William and the throne he will one day inherit.
And in case you were wondering: Yes, he gets paternity leave after Kate gives birth to the couple’s second child.