The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge joined air cadets honouring the memory of the Duke of Edinburgh as they held their first joint public event since his death.
William and Kate met young people learning life skills with the Air Training Corps, and the duchess tested her aerial skills in a flight simulator.
The duke, who learnt to fly with the RAF and piloted the service’s search and rescue helicopters, joked “I’ll hold the handbag” and stood back with his wife’s clutch as she got to grips with the controls.
Kate shared a laugh with William – who wore a black tie as a mark of respect to his grandfather – as she clambered into the simulator, at 282 (East Ham) Squadron, Air Training Corps in east London, and then put on a headset.
“Flight safety in an age of Covid,” said William smiling as the duchess struggled to remove a protective covering from the microphone mouthpiece.
She was talked through the controls of the Grob tutor, a light aircraft which thousands of cadets use each year for air experience flights, by Flight Sergeant Yasmin Fokerebacus.
William, who also flew with an air ambulance charity, still maintains his flying hours just as his grandfather did in the prime of his life.
Philip was the Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Air Training Corps for 63 years before he passed on the patronage to the duchess in 2015.
Kate met the cadets in her role as Honorary Air Commandant of the RAF Air Cadets, which comprises the Air Training Corps (ATC) and the Combined Cadet Force (RAF).
Group Captain Al Lewis said of the visit: “It was a really unique experience and the cadets only found out an hour before they arrived. Given that we haven’t had much activity over the last years it was a real morale boost.
“It was wonderful for them, too, to see the real legacy that the Duke of Edinburgh left.
“I spoke to the duke about whether he was still flying and he said he was very keen to try to keep his flying hours up. He clearly misses flying professionally.
“It was interesting to see the duchess get in the simulator instead of him. She did very well. He was goading her to say ‘well it’s not as easy as it seems’.”
During the visit the couple met cadets taking part in field craft exercises and leadership tasks, and watched a cadet climb into a “basher” – a small tent – which the duke joked was “cosy”.
The couple watched a team-building and leadership exercise, as the cadets moved items including a fire extinguisher and a teddy bear with ropes and William laughed as he said: “Whose teddy bear is that?”
He added: “What did your friends think when you joined up? Do you guys see a career in the forces? Did you think of that when you joined cadets?”
When one young boy told him they had not in the beginning but now were keen to do so, he replied: “Interesting, changes your mindset.”
At the end of the visit the cadets gave three cheers for the duke’s grandfather.