LONDON (AP) — Prince William will complete his final shift in his job as an air ambulance pilot Thursday as he gets ready to take on more extensive royal duties.
The heir to the British throne is working the night shift at the East Anglian Air Ambulance, where he has been flying medical crews to emergencies such as traffic accidents for about two years.
“As I hang up my flight suit, I am proud to have served with such an incredible team of people, who save lives across the region every day,” he wrote in an exclusive story in the Eastern Daily Press, a newspaper that serves the community near the ambulance service’s base at southern England’s Cambridge airport.
The announcement closes a chapter for William, 35, who is leaving the skies to return to formal duties as Britain’s future king. As the older generation of royals slows down, the younger members of the family are taking a greater number of official roles, such as foreign trips and other appearances.
The prince’s move is also about location. William and his wife, the former Kate Middleton, will be spending less time in their Norfolk residence and be carrying out more duties in London, where their 4-year-old son, Prince George, is due to start school.
Despite William’s change in role, he said what he has seen as an ambulance pilot changed his perspective.
“I have had experiences in this job I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and that will add a valuable perspective to my royal work for decades to come,” he said in January.
His team assisted people in life-threatening moments such as a heart attack or a car crash. William was glad he could contribute and be part of a team that changed people’s lives.
“I have been invited into people’s homes to share moments of extreme emotion, from relief that we have given someone a fighting chance, to profound grief,” he said.
William also said his interest in mental health issues partly stemmed from coming into contact with the subject of suicide as an ambulance pilot.
“One of the first call outs I made was to a young man who had committed suicide; it was an incredibly tough day and had a profound effect on all of us, not least in my determination now to draw attention to this issue,” William wrote in Thursday’s statement. That interest recently crystallized as the Heads Together campaign, which encourages people to speak about their problems.
On some occasions, the prince’s job caused some amusing misunderstandings.
Once, the ambulance service came to the aid of Jim Schembri, an ex-serviceman who was hurt when a tree branch fell on him in March 2016. Schembri was casually chatting with the prince when he realized his identity.
“When they loaded me into the helicopter I said, ‘William had better not be flying this’ and he said: ‘I’ve been holding your head for the last half an hour.’ I was totally shocked,” Schembri told the Daily Express.
If William took the job to be part of a team — a regular working pilot — he succeeded, according to the ambulance service’s chief executive, Patrick Peal. The chief will remember William not as a royal, but a “fantastic pilot.”
“To us, he has simply been another hard-working member of the team,” Peal wrote.