Prince William Advances to Lead Search and Rescue Operations for RAF

06/07/2012 at 08:30 AM EDT

Duke of Cambridge Advances in RAF
The Duke of Cambridge
SAC Faye Storer/MoD/Crown/Reuters/Landov
O captain! My captain!

Almost two years after joining the Royal Air Force Search and Rescue Force, the Duke of Cambridge has qualified to be an operational captain, meaning he can lead missions in RAF Sea King helicopters by himself.

William, 29, who helped save the lives of Russian seamen whose cargo vessel sank in the Irish Sea last November, previously only co-piloted the aircraft.

The advancement – which is not technically a promotion, as William remains a flight lieutenant – comes after two years of flying experience and study with C Flight, 22 Squadron at RAF Valley in Anglesey, Wales.

William also successfully completed several ground- and air-based practical tests over a two-day period. They included an airborne search for a yacht, a search for people in water, extinguishing a simulated fire on a large survey vessel, and a search for two missing kayakers.

Flight Lieutenant Wales, as he is known in the military, "demonstrated the required standards needed for the award of operation captaincy," Mark Dunlop, one of William's commanding officers, said.

"Due to the nature of search and rescue operations, the required standards are always set at a very high level. Operational captaincy carries the overarching responsibility for the safety of the aircraft, its crew and any casualties."

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