Prince Harry is set to be named a “living legend” of aviation alongside past notable figures such as astronaut Buzz Aldrin at a glitzy Hollywood reception.
The Duke of Sussex, 39, will be inducted into the Living Legends of Aviation at a ceremony hosted by Hollywood actor John Travolta on 19 January in Beverly Hills, California.
He served as an Apache helicopter pilot in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2013 and flew training missions in the UK, US and Australia as part of his 10-year-long career in the British military.
A statement on the event’s website describes him as “a British Army veteran and pilot with ten years military service, flying training missions in the US, UK and Australia, as well as combat missions in Afghanistan saving the lives of allied forces and countless civilians”.
The Duke was awarded his Flying Wings in 2010 after he finished an eight-month Army Pilot Course at the Army Aviation Centre. He learned how to fly the Firefly fixed-wing aircraft and the Squirrel helicopter, racking up about 220 flying hours.
The event was set up in 2003 to honour those who make significant contributions to aviation and aerospace - and inspire young children interested in aviation.
The Duke of Sussex has been branded undeserving of the aviation honour by former Armed Forces chiefs
His selection as an inductee has divided some, as social media users questioned why the duke has been selected while others celebrated his award.
One wrote on X: “I look forward to every other military pilot in the world being given the same award based on his accomplishments in that field.”
While another added: “Is this a joke? What is the legendary stuff that he has done? I am asking seriously! What the heck has he done?”
Reacting to Harry's accolade, Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy, said: 'He is not a living legend of aviation. To suggest he is is pathetic. It makes the whole thing seem a bit of a nonsense if they're willing to pick someone like Prince Harry.
'He didn't carry off any great exciting feat of amazing flying skill while flying for the Army. They're just trying to get publicity. They know it will cause a stir.'
Retired officer Colonel Richard Kemp said that Harry was 'a brave guy' and his role in Afghanistan was 'undoubtedly very dangerous'.
But he said that there are 'helicopter pilots who have done much more extraordinary things in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking their lives to rescue their fellow soldiers'.
Col Kemp highlighted how Harry's role had been 'number two' in his Apache helicopter, acting as a gunner in Afghanistan. 'The only possible difference I can see in Harry's case is his celebrity status – the fact he's a Royal,' he said, adding wryly: 'Or perhaps it's the frequency with which he travels by private jet which has seen him nominated for this award.'
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have frequently been accused of hypocrisy over their use of private jets to zip around the globe while at the same time speaking out about protecting the environment.
Harry has said he 'occasionally' had to travel by private jet to 'ensure my family are safe'.