Prince Harry qualifies as Apache helicopter commander

Prince Harry qualifies as an Apache aircraft commander. Ministry of Defence

Prince Harry has qualified to command an Apache attack helicopter, the culmination of his training over the last three years, Britain's defense ministry announced Friday.

Harry, known as Capt. Wales in the army, earlier this year completed a 20-week deployment in Afghanistan as a co-pilot gunner on an Apache and since then has flown missions in the U.K.

His commanding officer, Lt. Col. Tom de la Rue, called the qualification a "tremendous achievement," saying in a statement Friday that 28-year-old Harry had passed with "flying colors."

The military said Harry had undergone months of training to prepare for the test, which involved a "grueling" six-hour flying assessment that had him flying from Wattisham Airfield in Suffolk, England, up the eastern side of the country to Newcastle, across to RAF Spadeadam, then Carlisle, then down the western side of England through Manchester and Liverpool to Birmingham and then back to Wattisham.

During the course, he was required to plan and deliver a comprehensive set of patrol orders, navigate throughout, fly in controlled airspace and conduct a simulated low level attack onto RAF Spadeadam as well as deal with diversions and simulated aircraft emergencies, the ministry said.

This qualification is the culmination of the prince's training, which has seen him over the last 3 years complete the Conversion to Type Course (CTT), which teaches students to fly the aircraft, and the Conversion to Role (CTR) Course, during which he was awarded the prize for the best co-pilot gunner.

Harry will become an uncle later this month (and drop from third-in-line to the British throne down to fourth) when his brother, Prince William, and sister-in-law, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, welcome their first child.

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