Prince Harry Qualifies as an Apache Helicopter Commander

Britain's Prince Harry managed to outmaneuver royal watchers on full royal baby watch pending the arrival of the first child of his brother, Prince William, by making headlines of his own.

The 28-year-old prince has qualified to command an Apache attack helicopter after completing three years of training, including a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Britain's defense ministry announced today.

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Captain Wales, as he is known in the British Army, joined the military in May 2005 and rose to the position of Apache helicopter pilot. The British Defense Ministry named Harry the best front-seat pilot, or co-pilot gunner, in February 2012, from his class of more than 20 fellow Apache helicopter pilots.

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Prince Harry's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Tom de la Rue, called the promotion announced today a "tremendous achievement" and said the prince "passed with flying colours," according to the ministry's release.

Harry had to complete a six-hour assessment during which he was required to "plan and deliver patrol orders, navigate throughout, fly in a controlled airspace and conduct a simulated attack on RAF Spadeadam [a Royal Air Force station in Cumbria, England], in addition to managing a number of diversions and simulated aircraft emergencies," according to defense officials.

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Last month , Prince Harry showed off his piloting skills as a surprise guest at an air show in his first-ever appearance with the Royal Air Force's aerial-acrobatic helicopter show team.

At that event, one spectator described daredevil Harry's helicopter as "almost inverted, with its rotorblades down."

"If Harry's grandmother [Queen Elizabeth] had been watching," an onlooker told The Sun, "she'd have been a little concerned, I would have thought."

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Prince Harry, who returned in January from a five-month tour of duty in Afghanistan, serves in the 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, which is part of 16 Air Assault Brigade's Attack Helicopter Force.

The defense ministry said Harry will continue his normal duties as an Apache pilot based at Wattisham Airfield, in Suffolk.