Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh at the controls of a Boeing 757 airliner during a one and a half hour demonstration flight near Seattle, USA

Prince Philip: RAF Chief Honours 'Gifted Pilot'

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston has joined other service heads in saluting the life and service of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh at the controls of a Boeing 757 airliner during a one and a half hour demonstration flight near Seattle, USA

The Chief of the Air Staff has paid tribute to Prince Philip "on behalf of everyone in the Royal Air Force".

Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston released a statement following the Duke of Edinburgh's death on Friday 9 April at Windsor Castle.

The statement honoured the Duke of Edinburgh's contribution as a Second World War veteran, during an active military career of more than a decade.

From a position of "overwhelming sadness", the RAF chief mentioned Prince Philip's distinguished career with the Royal Navy, adding that the Duke was a "talented, gifted pilot".

The Duke gained his Royal Air Force wings in 1953, the same year he was given honorary five-star appointments in all three UK military services.

Three years later, he earned his helicopter wings, and his private pilot's licence in 1959.

The Royal Family website states Prince Philip completed 5,986 flying hours in 59 types of aircraft, with his final flight taking place on 11 August 1997, from Carlisle to Islay.

Paying tribute, Air Chief Marshal Wigston said: "It is with overwhelming sadness that the Royal Air Force mourns the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh.

"Throughout his great life, His Royal Highness has been the embodiment of service and respect; a constant example to us all, across all ranks and ages, our families and the wider Royal Air Force community.

Watch: Prince Philip speaks about why he opted to join the Royal Navy, rather than the RAF.

"His Royal Highness served with distinction in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, fighting for our freedom. He was of that generation whose courage and resilience inspires us to this day.

"He has been deeply connected to the Armed Forces and to our cadet organisations ever since, holding the rank of Marshal of the Royal Air Force and until recently Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Air Training Corps.

"His Royal Highness was a talented, gifted pilot... often flying the Royal Family himself in aircraft of the Queen's Flight.

"We remember his dynamism, his curiosity, his passion for aviation and the technology that drives us forward. Above all, we recognise the deep sense of duty and a life that has been the epitome of service before self.

"On behalf of everyone in the Royal Air Force, serving and retired, I offer our heartfelt condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and The Royal Family at their loss, and our immense gratitude for the life and inspirational service of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip."

The Duke of Edinburgh joined the Royal Navy in 1939, though admitted his uncle, Lord Mountbatten, played a part in that choice, with Philip also considering joining the Royal Air Force.

"I think, left to my own devices I think I probably would've signed up for the Navy," he said in a 1995 interview with Richard Astbury.

"I was eventually persuaded by my uncle, Lord Mountbatten, that it might be more sensible to go into the Navy."

"If I joined the Air Force, I wouldn't be here now," the Duke added, suggesting he may not have survived the war had he joined the RAF.

Military chiefs from all three services, alongside the Chief of the Defence Staff, have paid formal tribute to Prince Philip since his death.

Cover image: PA/Alamy.