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Prince William honoured his air ambulance pilot team for the last time

'It is days like this, when you know you have made a difference, that give you the determination to keep going.'

Words by Erin Hill

From the editors of PEOPLE

Before Prince William hangs up his flight suit for the last time, the royal is speaking out about his two years of service with the East Anglian Air Ambulance — and why it is so difficult to say farewell to his “incredible” team.

‘As I arrive for work at East Anglian Air Ambulance this evening, my last shift with this incredible team, I wanted to say thank you to my colleagues, team mates and the people of East Anglia who I have been so proud to serve,’ Prince William wrote an editorial piece for the Eastern Daily Press on Thursday.

‘Over the past two years I have met people from across the region who were in the most desperate of circumstances. As part of the team, 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.

‘I have watched as incredibly skilled doctors and paramedics have saved people’s lives. These experiences have instilled in me a profound respect for the men and women who serve in our emergency services, which I hope to continue to champion even as I leave the profession. I am hugely grateful for having had this experience.’

William’s announcement that he is leaving his job as an air ambulance pilot comes just months after he and Princess Kate announced their decision to move their family’s home base to London.

William joined the EEAA as an air ambulance pilot in March 2015 after flying rescue helicopters with the RAF in North Wales for more than three years. He piloted his first operational mission with the EEAA in July 2015. Flying helicopters enabled William to return to his love of flying while making a contribution to public life – using the skills he learned in the Royal Air Force.

air ambulance pilot

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‘From the moment I joined, when that phone rang at the base for the first time, it was clear that I was a fellow professional, a pilot with a job to do – in such a team there can be no other option, but still I am grateful to my colleagues for accepting me so readily,’ he wrote.

He also opened up about some of his most harrowing rescue missions.

‘As a team, we travel to some very daunting incidents and we have been though some incredibly tough times together, witnessing some appalling tragedies,’ he wrote. ‘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.’

air ambulance pilot

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‘Another rescue that sticks in my mind was to a young man who was involved in a road accident. His uncle in the car with him sadly didn’t survive, and I was sure that from what we were faced with he wouldn’t either – but thanks to the skills of our medical team he is alive today. We were first on scene and in such circumstances we all had to pitch in to fight to save the young man’s life. It is days like this, when you know you have made a difference, that give you the determination to keep going.’

The royal dad has already passed on his love of flying to 4-year-old son, Prince George. The father and son toured a helicopter during the royal family’s recent trip to Germany.

William concluded: ‘Having had the great good fortune to experience serving the East Anglian Air Ambulance, I would like to finally say thank you to the community who fund, support and keep the air ambulance flying. 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.’

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