What is King Charles's military background referenced by Zelenskyy in pilot speech?

Monarch is an experienced aviator and trained to fly planes during his military service in the 1970s

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy used a historic speech in the UK's Houses of Parliament to praise King Charles's support for Ukraine, referring to the monarch’s own air force training to tell parliamentarians that in his country every pilot is a “king”.

The Ukrainian leader showed his knowledge of the king’s own Royal Air Force flying experience, as he told the assembled audience in Parliament that he wanted to tell the monarch something “very, very, very important”.

“In Britain, the king is an air force pilot and in Ukraine today, every air force pilot is a king,” he said, to applause.

King Charles shook the hands of Mr Zelenskyy during their meeting at Buckingham Palace, telling him: “We've all been worried about you and thinking about your country for so long.”

King Charles trained as an aviator and flew planes for the RAF and a helicopter for the Royal Navy in the 1970s.

He was given his pilot's wings in 1971 after graduating from Cranwell in Lincolnshire, the college where Britain's budding military pilots are trained.

The king qualified as a helicopter pilot in 1974 before joining 845 Naval Air Squadron, which operated from the Commando carrier HMS Hermes.

He was given command of his own ship, the minehunter HMS Bronington, for the final 10 months of his active service in the Royal Navy which ended in 1976.

King Charles was appointed to the rank of Marshal of the RAF in 2012, the highest rank in the British Royal Air Force.

He also ascended to the position Air Commodore-in-Chief of the RAF following the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II in September last year.

King Charles last visited the Cranwell in 2008 for the Duke of Cambridge’s graduation ceremony, when Prince William became the fourth successive generation of the monarchy to become an RAF pilot.

The monarch gave up flying in 1994 after a plane that he was piloting crash-landed on Islay, an island off the western Scottish coast.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced plans to train Ukrainian pilots, paving the way for them to potentially be able to fly sophisticated Nato-standard jets in the future.

Mr Zelenskyy used his speech to call for a coalition of nations to supply planes.

He said: “I appeal to you and the world with simple and yet most important words: combat aircraft for Ukraine, wings for freedom.”

Updated: February 08, 2023, 5:10 PM