The Bath helicopter pilot who captained Prince Harry
An RAF Apache helicopter pilot from Bath has spoken about his experiences captaining Prince Harry during his most recent tour of Afghanistan.
Captain Simon Beattie, 30, was the lead of the royal’s flight - or pair of helicopters - so, as the more experienced aircraft commander, was in charge of the prince for hundreds of missions over Helmand Province.
Together the pair fired on Taliban fighters attacking allied troops, escorted rapid evacuation sorties and troop-carrying helicopters and acted as a deterrent to insurgents.
Capt Beattie, who is on his fourth tour of Afghanistan and served in Iraq in 2006, said that when they were up in the air he was in constant communication with his colleague, who is known as Captain Wales.
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He said: “I’m the ops (operations) officer of the squadron, but I’m also the flight lead for Harry’s flight. So if you can imagine that anything we do, we do as a pair.”
He added: “We have a radio where we talk back to the guys here (at Bastion) and talk to each other on. And then we have a ground-to-air radio which is what we’ll talk in to the guy on the ground or the JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller).
“I’ll often divide the ground up, give him an area that he’s responsible for.
“So it’s a constant two-way communication, or three-way, between both of us and what’s going on on the ground.”
Capt Beattie grew up in Bath and now lives in Colchester with his fiancee Davina.
He said that despite Prince Harry’s grandmother being the Queen, it was he who had the final say when it came to decisions on the battlefield.
“I’m the flight lead,” he said. “If I need to make a decision, that’s that.
“But we work well together as a team, and that’s how it is.
“We’re both captains, so we’re the same rank. I’ve been in the army a bit longer than him, and I’ve certainly been in the Apache force a lot longer.
“But if you’ve got someone who’s relaxed and easy to work with or get on with, there’s never any issue of having to pull rank, or who’s in charge.”
Capt Beattie said since meeting the prince a year ago, the pair had built up a strong bond, both in and out of work.
He said: “Harry is a good guy, he’s someone I enjoy working with. Third-in-line to the throne aside, I consider him to be a friend and I enjoy working with him.
“My parents are obviously aware, and my fiance. He’s been round to our house a few times for dinner and bits and pieces.
“Day-to-day you don’t notice the difference. He’s one of the guys.”