On the same day news broke that Prince Harry had ended his libel suit against The Mail on Sunday (Harry’s spokesperson said instead his focus was “on the safety of his family, rather than these legal proceedings”), the Duke of Sussex stepped out to receive an award in Beverly Hills. Harry was among four people to be inducted into the Living Legends of Aviation, honoring “those who have made significant contributions to aviation [and] aerospace”; the event was hosted by actor John Travolta, the “Official Ambassador of Aviation.”
Harry accepted his award from Travolta onstage and gave a few remarks after. “This is nice,” Harry said, prompting laughter from the crowd, according to a video posted to social media. “Thank you, Captain John,” Harry continued, acknowledging Travolta as he walked off center stage. “Don’t go running away,” Harry said jokingly, adding “I was one year old when you danced with my mum”—a reference to the now iconic dance between Travolta and Princess Diana at a state dinner at the White House in November 1985. (Travolta had referenced the moment with Diana in his opening comments at last night’s event, according to Hello.)
Continuing to rib Travolta, Harry joked that Travolta had told “everybody here” and would continue “dining out on that” moment. “But look at us now, it’s great!” Harry said. “So, if we’re not going to dance together, we’ll fly together.”
For his part, Travolta said in a 2016 interview that the dance with Diana was “one of the highlights of my life.” The Mirror reports that Travolta was one of the “biggest supporters” for Harry being honored at Friday’s event during the selection process among existing honorees and committee members. Travolta advocated for Harry not just for his military service, but for his work promoting veterans through The Invictus Games. (In addition to both Harry and Travolta, inductees include Tom Cruise, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Morgan Freeman, Harrison Ford, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk.)
Travolta has always maintained a “strong emotional link and connection” to Harry because of his friendship with Diana, who died in 1997; recalling how their famous dance came to be, Travolta said “About 10 o’clock at night, [First Lady] Nancy Reagan tapped on my shoulder and said, ‘The princess, her fantasy is to dance with you. Would you dance with her tonight?’ And I said, ‘Well, of course. How does this work?’ And she said, ‘Well, at about midnight, I’ll come and get you, and then I’ll lead you over to her, and then you ask her to dance.’”
Harry served as a helicopter pilot during his 10 years in the British Army, flying training missions in the U.K., U.S., and Australia, as well as combat missions in Afghanistan. He was awarded his Flying Wings in 2010 following completion of the eight-month Army Pilot Course with the Army Aviation Centre, where People reports he learned “to fly the Firefly fixed-wing aircraft and the Squirrel helicopter and accumulat[ed] approximately 220 flying hours. Harry spent three-and-a-half years in training and operational service with the Apache Force during his time with the Army Air Corps, winning the prize for best co-pilot gunner during training and becoming a fully operational Apache pilot in February 2012.”
“For me, flying has been a transcendent experience,” Harry said in his speech. “A close encounter with magic, an invitation to both protect freedom…and to feel free, and, funny enough, an opportunity to ground oneself, without actually being grounded.” He added “I find my flight training—which was over the course of three years—to be one of life’s greatest lessons. It triggered a vast array of feelings.”
For the event, Harry wore a classic black tux. He attended the event solo, as Meghan Markle stayed behind at home in Montecito after one of their kids unexpectedly “became unwell,” The Mirror reports. (It’s not unclear which of their two children became unwell, and no other information was given.) She was expected to be in attendance alongside her husband. This was Harry’s first public appearance following the news of health scares for both his father, King Charles, and sister-in-law the Princess of Wales.