The Duchess of Cambridge has showed she’s everything a royal should be by gracefully climbing into the cockpit of fighter jet in a pair of stilettos.

Royals are routinely schooled in the art of entering and exiting limousines with grace, but a fighter jet is another matter entirely.

The Duchess of Cambridge proved her pedigree in Queensland on Saturday, when she accepted her husband’s invitation to climb into the cockpit of a F/A-18F Super Hornet.

“Do you fancy jumping in the back,” the duke, a former RAF officer, asked her.

But Prince William must have taken some pity on his wife, and climbed into the back himself, leaving Kate to slide, without incident, behind the controls from a flight of mobile stairs.

Commanding Officer Stephen Chappell remarked there was some “byplay between the two as to who was sitting in what seat”.

The couple touched down at Australia’s largest air force base at Amberley, west of Brisbane, about 11am, where they were greeted with an honour guard and fly over by the Super Hornets based there.

The couple chatted happily with dignitaries including Governor Penelope Wensley, Defence Minister David Johnston, Premier Campbell Newman and his wife Lisa, and the mayor of Ipswich Paul Pisasale, who last spent time with William as the city recovered from its devastating 2011 floods.

Later the couple bowed their heads in prayer at the dedication of the planting of a Plunkett Mallee tree in the base’s memorial garden, which honours the service and sacrifice of members of the Royal Australian Air Force.

After the brief dedication service, two young girls, aged about eight and dressed in matching gold and silver frocks, stole the attention of the duchess.

The girls handed her posies of vibrant pink flowers, at times shyly staring at the ground but occasionally summoning the courage to meet her gaze, but just what they discussed remains between them, for now.

The couple then spent time with military personnel and met relatives of four Australian soldiers killed in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They include the family of Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, who was among three Australians killed by a rogue Afghan soldier in 2012.

Kate’s choice of dress for the occasion was a sympathetic nod to the importance of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in the military community.

The royal couple will later head to Brisbane’s South Bank for a civic reception.

Royal watchers are already gathering at the parkland precinct, hoping to steal a glimpse or perhaps a quick word with the couple during a public walk.

The couple will leave Brisbane to return to Sydney and Prince George just after 3pm.

The Ipswich mayor said he and Prince William had shared a laugh while remembering an amusing moment during his 2011 visit, just a month or so before he married Kate.

William had accompanied Mayor Pisasale to a flood evacuation centre, where he met an Ipswich woman who was due to walk down the aisle on the same day.

“Quick as a flash, William told her: ‘If you invite me to yours, I’ll invite you to mine,” Mr Pisasale told AAP on Saturday.

“We had a laugh today when he said: ‘She never did send me that invitation. Come to think of it, I didn’t send her one either’.”

The mayor said he again thanked William for his 2011 visit and for the comfort it brought his community at a time of great need.

“For me it was about saying thank you again. I call him the people’s prince. He’s just so easy to get on with.”

He said the duchess gave a little chuckle when asked how she managed to play cricket so well in a pair of heels during the couple’s New Zealand tour.

“She told me she tries anything. It was lovely to meet to her.”

Mr Pisasale said the royal couple’s time with the families of fallen diggers was hugely important, as was the focus their visit gave to Australia’s military personnel.

“We enjoy our freedom because of defence force personnel. Sometimes we forget about it and complain about the aircraft noise, but it’s the sound of freedom.”

Police later said a small number of Aboriginal protesters had been moved on after trying to stage a demonstration at South Bank, ahead of the couple’s arrival for a civic reception and public walk.

One activist was ushered away after going behind barricades meant to keep the royal route along Grey Street clear, outside the South Brisbane train station.

Police said no arrests had been made.