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Charles climbs into cockpit during visit to ‘Dambusters’ squadron

The Prince of Wales was given a comprehensive tour of the F-35 Lightning Aircraft belonging to 617 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk.

The Prince of Wales “appeared to be impressed” as he was given a tour of a stealth combat aircraft on his visit to the “Dambusters” squadron.

Charles “particularly enjoyed” the opportunity to climb into the cockpit of the F-35 Lightning Aircraft belonging to 617 Squadron.

He was met by Wing Commander John Butcher at RAF Marham in Norfolk on Friday – who described it as a “huge honour” to receive the prince.

Charles, who was appointed Marshal of the RAF in 2012, discussed his interest in the first landing of the aircraft in the autumn being on HMS Queen Elizabeth – with ship and aircraft operating together for the first time.

After a comprehensive tour of the F-35, the prince met RAF and Royal Navy ground crews that support the aircraft – in which he thanked them for their hard work.

617 Squadron Commanding Officer, Wg Cdr Butcher, said he had the opportunity to show Charles the capabilities of the F-35 Lightning aircraft.

He said: “He (Charles) certainly seemed to be impressed.

“As a pilot himself, he understands in quite a lot of detail as to what the implications of flying an aircraft are like.

“When you talk about the capabilities… I think any pilot would find it quite astonishing. All the different capabilities… to do a short take-off and a vertical landing and of particular interest to him, to operate the Queen Elizabeth class carriers as well.”

The prince then met various members of the 617 Squadron, which reformed earlier in 2018 after it was originally established in 1943 with the specific task of attacking three major dams that contributed water and power to the Ruhr industrial region in Germany.

Speaking on behalf of the Squadron, Wg Cdr Butcher said: “It’s a huge honour to meet the Prince of Wales for the squadron.

“I think it’s an indication to the squadron as well that they are involved in a major point of history for the 617 Squadron.

“But to have the Prince of Wales come and see us, come and see the aircraft, meet the people – I think it really hits home what exactly it means to be on 617 Squadron.”

Speaking of how the prince reacted to being given the opportunity to climb into the cockpit, Wg Cdr Butcher said: “It was something he particularly enjoyed.

“It was another way to show how different it is – when you climb into the F-35 cockpit, it’s a very clean cockpit, very few switches and that really reinforces how different operating this platform is.”

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