File image: Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.

Prince William is mourning the loss of his former flying instructor who has been killed in a motorbike crash.

The Duke of Cambridge yesterday extended his ‘deepest sympathy’ to the grieving family of James Hassell, 36, a Warrant Officer with the elite Wild Cat Fielding Team, which is based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset.

The respected Army Lynx helicopter pilot was specially selected to teach the prince on a fast-track flying course four years ago.

Nicknamed ‘safe hands’, he taught William about the special tactics and skills required by military pilots when he joined the RAF on a four-month attachment.

He was so highly thought of that he was invited to join William for a private ceremony at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire in April 2008, when the prince received his ‘wings’ from Prince Charles. W/O Hassell from Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, died on March 16 when his motorbike was involved in a collision with a truck in Faringdon, Oxfordshire.A military funeral was held last month.

A spokesman for the Prince said yesterday: ‘The Duke of Cambridge has been informed of the sad news and his thoughts are with Mr Hassell’s family.’

Other friends and family paid tribute to W/O Hassell, who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His close friend and fellow pilot Matt Webb, 36, revealed that he managed to keep his cool when jokers tried to disrupt his tutoring of the prince.

He said: ‘He had carefully prepared a day’s presentation for the prince when one of his friends wiped it from his computer as a practical joke – but he still managed to deliver the mission orders perfectly from memory.

‘His goalkeeping skills earned him the nickname ‘Safe Hands’ – a name which followed him into his flying career as he was a consummate professional.’

His stepfather, Pat Salter, from Taddington, Gloucestershire, added: ‘When we found out our lad was teaching the future King we were shaking in our boots.

‘At the funeral I asked his captain “Why James?” and he said, “We couldn’t afford a cock up and he was the only one for the job”.’

At the time of the accident, W/O Hassell and his wife of 12 years, Lily, were about to buy their first home together.

William also lost his much admired Army mentor from Sandhurst, Major Alexis Roberts, 32, who died in an explosion in Afghansitan in 2007. - Daily Mail