Prince Charles was ‘thrilled’ to visit a Crawley firm teaching the next generation of pilots.
The Prince of Wales visited L3Harris to open its new London Training Centre.
His Royal Highness said: “It’s been an enormous pleasure to visit this site today.
Read more: Prince Charles visits Crawley and Wakehurst
“I’m full of admiration of the remarkable technical teamwork which goes into producing all this sophisticated equipment.
“It’s a remarkable example of people from all around the world pooling their brainpower. I’m so thrilled.”
The Prince tried a flight simulator, completing a short loop around a virtual Glasgow airport.
He added: “There’s a huge demand for more pilots and better trained ones.
“I have even tried one of these simulators [but] I’m far too old.
“[When I was trained] you used to have to do it by the seat of your pants.
“I discovered the least you do to it [the new simulator] the better.
“At least I managed a controlled crash.”
Conservative peer, Baroness Charlotte Veer, who spoke at the event, heralded the opening as a ‘very welcome investment’ in the UK aviation industry.
She said: “It’s a pleasure to see where our future aviation professionals will come and learn their trade and discover many of the opportunities [aviation has to offer].
“We do have the third largest aviation industry in the world but in such a fast moving sector if you stand still you will very quickly start to fall behind.
“As demand for air travel increases so will the demand for pilots. This really does pose a challenge for every single nation invested in aviation. We’re prepared for that.
Baroness Vere spoke of the importance of encouraging pilots from all backgrounds.
She added: “Good pilots come from everywhere.”
L3Harris cadet Mohammed Yaakoubi is training at the new centre and spent time chatting with His Royal Highness.
He said: “It was really good. I have never met a prince. He seemed like a really nice person.
“You would have coffee with him - no doubt he would be a nice person to hang out with.
“The fact that he’s passionate about aviation. Not all royalty shares the aviation passion.
“I found that quite nice.”
Alan Crawford, president of L3Harris commercial aviation, said it was ‘fantastic’ to have His Royal Highness and Baroness Vere visit the centre.
He added: “It’s wonderful for our customers and staff.
“He gave a wonderful speech and it’s a real testament to the to the investment we have [made] in this facility.”
More than $100m has been invested in the training centre.
Robin Glover-Faure, president for commercial training solutions for L3Harris, said: “It was a privilege to have His Royal Highness.
“He flew one of our A320 simulators so he was able to see first hand the quality.
“He was able to explore and be given a briefing on how we used these simulators to train pilots.”
Robin added that Prince Charles was ‘thrilled’ by the scholarships which aim remove the financial barriers to pilot training.
Several dignitaries met the Prince of Wales at the opening, including Davina Irwin-Clarke, High Sheriff of West Sussex.
She said: “It’s an extraordinarily impressive facility and so so strategically important for the area.
“It’s really striking. It gives a very strong message when Prince Charles [visits] - we’re very fortunate to have him.”
But for one visitor, it wasn’t the first time he had met the Prince.
Councillor Raj Sharma, mayor of Crawley, said: “I met him when he was expecting Prince William. We had a conversation way back in 1982.
“I asked him what he was hoping for.
“We had lunch together, we talked about it.
“I reminded him that we met back then. He was pleased that we had met before.”
He said the town values the number of people L3Harris employs in the area.
Councillor Raj added: “[To] have companies like this in Crawley is fantastic. Considering it’s a company that has been here many many years.
“[It is a ] fantastic facility with the simulators.”