( AP ) - Prince William's relationship with his longtime girlfriend, Kate Middleton, is back in the public eye after her first appearance at an official event with him since 2006.
The second-in-line to the throne won his pilot's wings in a ceremony Friday. But all eyes were on the 26-year-old Middleton, who looked on as Prince Charles fixed the traditional insignia badge to the left breast of his son's uniform.
Cameras lingered on the pair as they walked side-by-side, although not quite arm-in-arm, after the ceremony at an air force base in Cranwell, in eastern England. William wore a dark blue uniform; Middleton wore a white double-breasted coat and black suede boots.
Middleton's appearance at William's graduation ceremony at Sandhurst military academy in December 2006 helped build the expectation that the couple, who have dated since 2003, when they were both students at St. Andrews University in Scotland, were headed for marriage. Retail chain Woolworth's even announced it had commissioned Wills-and-Kate engagement memorabilia.
An April 2007 report that the pair had split up seemed to pour cold water on the fevered speculation, although they have been seen together since.
Footage taken Friday of a clapping Middleton sitting next to Lady Sarah McCorquodale, William's aunt, reignited interest in their romance.
"Here comes the bride?" Britain's Daily Mail asks in its Saturday edition next to a picture of the smiling pair, according to a preview made available late Friday.
William received his badge after spending four months with the Royal Air Force learning to pilot helicopters and planes. His study was designed to make him a competent, but not operational, flier.
British fighter jet pilots normally spend up to four years under instruction.
The course is part of the 25-year-old William's preparations to eventually become king, when he will become the ceremonial head of Britain's armed forces. He is already an army officer and is due to serve a tour overseas, most likely aboard a navy warship.
Defense officials said previously that William could be deployed to areas such as the South Atlantic, the Persian Gulf, the Pacific Ocean or the West Indies.
The royal is following in the footsteps of his father, Prince Charles, who passed his training in 1971, his grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh, who earned his wings in 1953, and his great-grandfather Prince Albert, later King George VI, who became the first royal to serve in the RAF, between 1918 and 1919.
William's younger brother, Harry, returned from Afghanistan in February. He served 10 weeks in the volatile Helmand province - a tour that was cut short after a magazine and Web sites breached a news blackout aimed at protecting him and disclosed details of his whereabouts.
Flight Lt. Kerry Goldsworthy-Trapp, 24, who graduated alongside William, said he had been a good colleague in the skies.
"William was a really nice guy. He was very easy to get on with and had a good sense of humor. I think he did really well. He fitted in like everyone else. He wanted to be accepted by everyone," she said.