01/07/2008 at 06:00 AM EST
Look, up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane. It's ... Prince William
The 25-year-old royal joined other recruits at the Royal Air Force's Cranwell base in Lincolnshire this past weekend to begin his pilot training. (Photos released Monday show the William in his high-flying new role.)
Announced back in October 2007
as part of an ongoing effort to familiarize the Prince with all elements of the armed forces, William will spend the next four months training with the air force. He is a second lieutenant in the army but will be known as Flying Officer Wales in the RAF.
One of the prince's instructors at RAF Cranwell – in a program codenamed Project Golden Kestrel – is Squadron Leader Roger Bousfield, 36. "They are all nervous on their first day," he says. "There will be lots of other pilots in the same boat as him. There are 11 people on that course and it was selected purely at random."
The instructor continues: "We are trying to treat him as much as we can like another student, and that is as much for his benefit as ours. He will get a better picture of what motivates our guys, which is important for him to understand what makes the air force tick."
One potential drawback to the intensive training? It could prove difficult for William to see his girlfriend of five years, Kate Middleton
"It is a tough time," says Group Captain Nick Seward Commandant, Central Flying School, RAF Cranwell. "He'll normally start work at eight o'clock in the morning and finish, formally, at five o'clock. But depending on how the flight training has gone it can go on to eight or nine o'clock in the evening."
With this in mind, it remains to be seen if the royal lovebirds, who briefly split
in April, will get together for her 26th birthday on Wednesday.
William will follow his time in the RAF with a term in the Royal Navy later this year.